BOTTOM LINE: A mother, a daughter, and the man who unexpectedly comes into their lives, occupy the stage in this wrenching new play that blurs the line between truth and illusion.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf is not the only play in New York City concerned with blurring the lines between truth and illusion. In the modest black box occupied by the Bridge Theatre on 54th Street, a new play, The Mentee, has its small ensemble tearing at each other, determined to expose truths and lies, or at the very least feel that bit of vindication from spewing their venomous words. Steven Fechter’s play lives in the gap between naturalism and expressionism, and jerks the audience between these styles as it weaves together stark truthfulness and heightened poetry. One may leave the theatre unsure about the actuality of the play’s events, but the bitter impact of the evening will linger, like a strong shot of Irish whiskey as it burns after being gulped down.

The Mentee is not what one may call an “enjoyable” night in the theatre per se. It is a nasty little play, and by the end of the performance the audience may feel as though they too were put through the ringer. But when shows like …Virginia Woolf, Death of a Salesman, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, etc. reappear on Broadway every few years, we have to admit that we theatre folk enjoy the self-flagellation of sitting through painfully wrenching dramas. The Mentee is a similar experience, difficult and confounding at times, but worth the wounds.



There is a lot of pretty flesh showcased in Lancelot, and it’s very up-close and personal, as the Gym at Judson seats the audience in two spare semi-circles of folding chairs that ring the performers. That flesh is draped on a bare-bones production of a powerful play.  Playwright Steven Fechter takes another cut at dramatizing pedophilia. His Woodsman addresses the post-prison adjustment of a child molester. In Lancelot, the plot hangs on a long ago seduction of a sensitive thirteen-year old boy by his twenty-six-year-old art teacher… Fechter’s script is tight and layered, and speaks to big themes about art and talent, gender and morality. His characters are complicated and do not happily resolve themselves in ninety minutes.


There’s something about life in the vast Great Plains that brings out the scary in some folks, regardless of how hard they try to fit in. Case in point: Ryan, the central character in Steven Fechter’s compelling and psychologically complex new drama, Lancelot, having its world premiere under the direction of Thom Fogarty at The Gym at Judson… [T]he excellent actors and their director mine the script for every ounce of truth as the layers are peeled away bit by bit.  And even when we are pretty sure where things are heading, the play offers up surprising twists that prevent any of the characters from behaving exactly as we might expect. The thrill of watching the plot unfold is in seeing the walls closing in on Ryan as he strives to decide which trap door to fall through—for trap doors are all that are available to him.

HOWARD MILLER, Upstage-Downstage


The Commission takes place in an unnamed foreign country, recently done with a civil war. The scenes move backward in time and we see how tightly connected this seemingly disparate group of characters really are. The play is about relationships, as much as anything, and it hinges on the story of Ivan (Zack Calhoon), a young soldier, and his love Tulia; and the affair between Karl, an investigator for the War Crimes Commission (hence, The Commission), and the American ex-pat, Paula. People do horrible things during times of war and Fechter zeroes in on sexual atrocities and the way the perpetrator’s guilt can linger, poisoning his life well after the crime was committed. It’s easy to appreciate The Commission from a technical point of view. Fechter’s scenes start off innocently enough, but he soon gets the ball rolling, continually escalating the conflict and showing the flip-flop of power between the characters. This creates engaging tension and it is genuinely fun to see how each character will try to take power back from the other.

The New York International Fringe Festival

This absorbing new play at the Fringe Festival by Steven Fechter (The Woodsman) caught me by surprise: after the first scene I was sure I knew where it was going (political intrigue) and then it went somewhere else (sexual warfare) and then somewhere else again. . . . it’s sharp and lean and purposeful as the scenes play out in reverse chronological order. (I feel like a spoilsport to reveal the play’s structure, but it’s the most benign thing I can give away to indicate the drama’s rigor and intelligence.) Set in an unnamed country (Yugoslavia?) during and after a brutal civil war . . . The violence that we see on stage is mostly of the interpersonal kind, including an extended nude scene between the older couple that is harrowing in its frank depiction of warm intimacy turning cruel. . . . this is a highly recommended production of a striking new play that is sure to linger in the memory of anyone who sees it.


Fechter’s script bares its teeth here . . . from the vicious molars to the subtle, delayed wisdom teeth. It’s also no surprise that the fangs come out at a moment when the play is furthest from the war: The Commission makes the biggest statement about objectivity and passivity by branding victimization and violence into what is otherwise a domestic scene. Look, it says: if we can do this in our own bedrooms, to those we supposedly love, what won’t we do to those anonymous strangers we know nothing of and care nothing for?

AARON RICCIO, New Theater Corps


In this darkishly delicious slice of life, staged in film-noir wrappings, we are privy to a chance meeting of two lost and wanting souls, about to collide like two sinking ships passing in the night…. In his directorial debut, Joey Tuccio… seems to have a genuine grasp on playwright Steven Fechter’s understated tensions, softened by subtle and offhandish playful stylizations…. Wonderfully measured turns by both actors make it impossible to presume the final outcome of this union till the play’s last seconds.

The Lounge Theatre, Los Angeles, 2006
DAVE DEPINO, Backstage West

The banter that ensues is so witty and well delivered that it rivals Nick and Nora’s clever chatter in The Thin Man. Still, there is more to this play than playwright Steven Fechter’s crackling dialogue…. A darkness lurks beneath the shiny surface of this charming flirtation, a darkness that subtly and accurately reveals the potency of human desire.


Written by Steven Fechter, The Last Cigarette is a brooding, moody and tantalizing exploration into the motives of why people say and do the things they do when playing the mating game. Folded between layers of metaphors, the language is seductive, the acting is riveting and the characters are modern incarnations of the great actors of the past in their great movies of yesteryear.


Kevin Bacon stars as a pedophile released from prison and facing a world that does not accept or understand him in “The Woodsman.”

Director and co-scriptwriter (with Steven Fechter, who wrote the play) Nicole Kassell has fashioned a cool, minimalist and absolutely terrific little film called The Woodsman…This is a very small film, easy to overlook among the end-of-the-year behemoths. Do not do so. It is among the best and most delicately managed films of the year.


The movie is the first film by Nicole Kassell… who wrote the screenplay with Steven Fechter, based on his play. It is a remarkably confident work… “The Woodsman”… succeeds as more than just the story of this character. It has relevance for members of the audience who would never in any way be even remotely capable of Walter’s crime.


This unsettling yet redemptive drama depicts its protagonist as a man in a cage, as much a victim as an architect of his obsession… Adapted by Kassell and Steven Fechter from the latter’s play, the film is an uncommonly challenging narrative examination of the pedophile mindset, going far deeper than similarly nuanced, yet more distancing portraits such as Dylan Baker’s character in “Happiness” or Brian Cox’s in “L.I.E.”


Steven Fechter’s play about a pedophile’s halting re-entry into society demands both delicacy and moral firmness… Thanks in large part to a career performance by star Kevin Bacon, rookie filmmaker Nicole Kassell defies conventional wisdom. We root for her protagonist’s recovery and redemption without ever forgetting his crimes… “The Woodsman” reminds us that any soul, even the most troubled, might be worth saving.

CHRISTIAN TOTO, The Washington Times

One of the better independent films of 2004… If the key to such a film is making the man sympathetic while the crime remains unspeakable, Kassell, Bacon and co-writer Steven Fechter succeed triumphantly.


“The Woodsman” is not to be missed… Kassell and Fechter, who collaborated on the screenplay… give filmgoers a firsthand glimpse of a sex offender who isn’t a monster but a man, albeit one who is afflicted with a grievous obsession.

ANN HORNADAY, The Washington Post