Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. For his latest comedy, “Stalker Bob and his Mother,” opening on Nov. 30 at Empire Stage, playwright Michael Aman was inspired by headlines about an infamous New York murder.
Sante Kimes and her son, Kenneth, were career criminals living in Manhattan who hatched a scheme in 1998 to assume the identity of their landlady, an 82-year-old socialite and then appropriate her multimillion dollar mansion. The woman’s body was never found, but the pair were convicted of murder and 117 other criminal counts in 2000.
It was an “oddly amazing” story that Aman incorporated into the equally bizarre experience of two close friends.
“One of them had a playmate, let’s say, who refused to go away. He came over, they had their triste and he left,” said Aman, “but then he came back and came back. They called him ‘their stalker’.”
In Aman’s play, Jim and Jimmy are a couple who have just retired to Florida. Soon, they become entangled with a professional swindler who uses her son’s sexual charms to lure her unsuspecting victims. Together, they must fight the wacky crime perpetrated by “Stalker Bob and his Mother.”
This play is a marked departure from Aman’s previous works produced in South Florida: the critically-acclaimed dramas “Poz” and “Feeding the Bear” at Island City Stage in Wilton Manors and his “Muscle Bears the Musical,” with a score by Matthew Doers, at Empire Stage just this summer.
“Comedy is a lot easier to write because it’s just silliness. With my more serious plays, I structure them like crazy—not in the first draft—but in subsequent drafts, so everything adds up in the central themes,” explained Aman.
That doesn’t mean that he doesn’t devote time to developing his characters, though, when tackling a comedy like “Stalker Bob.” Aman believes the humor comes from the conflict between characters.
“Ironically, comedy is almost more serious than serious plays, because it’s about that constant conflict,” he said.
Aman completed the play 14 months ago and it has been presented in two readings since, offering him the opportunity to tweak the dialogue and gauge audience response to the jokes and situations. David Gordon, owner of Empire Stage, invited Aman to stage the play during the Christmas season, affording the writer an opportunity to incorporate holiday themes into the story.
“It’s a nice fluffy thing to do at Christmas,” added Aman, who also wanted to set the record straight with audiences on behalf of his friends. “They attended both readings and wanted to make sure everyone knew that neither of them has ever had gonorrhea…The audience will laugh and they’re all good with the play.”
Michael Aman’s “Stalker Bob and his Mother” will be performed Nov. 30 – Dec. 23 at Empire Stage, 1140 N. Flagler Drive in Fort Lauderdale. Tickets are $30 at EmpireStage.com.