Story: Playwright Eric Bogosian presents 10 vignettes featuring urban and suburban men in modern-day America in this one-man, one-act, 75-minute venture into the male psyche.
Highlights: Joe Hanrahan, whose Midnight Company was the first troupe permitted to present The Worst of Bogosian, is a whirl of manic energy in this one-man tour de force presentation. Hanrahan, who has performed several of Bogosian’s works, is in his element, the solo format, as he presents 10 or so characters who preen, pontificate or prattle about their often sordid lives in a free-flowing dramatic discourse.
Other Info: Hanrahan has refined and polished the art of the individual theatrical performer, as evidenced in this tight and terrifying journey into America’s often shallow heart of darkness. Guided by Rachel Tibbetts’ well-focused direction in the cozy basement performance space at Herbie’s Vintage 72 restaurant, Hanrahan extracts all of the venom and vitality in Bogosian’s rants to exhausting effect.
Actually, the very first character we meet is the nicest, although he doesn’t have much competition. Bottleman talks to us about life on the streets as a homeless person, but he isn’t angry or bitter or discontented. He mildly complains about the price of coffee ($3, when it should be $1), but he’s at peace with himself and his surroundings, foraging for bottles and cans and the deposits that keep him in coffee and egg salad sandwiches for another day.
From that pleasant interlude we’re introduced to a number of sleazy, greedy, vapid, self-centered hedonists who think first and foremost about themselves. There’s the brain-zapped rock star whose years of drug abuse and sex orgies have given way to his delusional attempt to hold a Benefit performance for natives along the Amazon River “who don’t even speak English.” He promises that a full “20 percent” of proceeds from the concert will be used to buy ‘stuff’ for the natives, such as iPods, lest it be wasted on health care or education.
Red is a rambling discourse by a drug-soaked, motorcycling hanger-on who lives with a stripper (“She thinks she’s better than us”) and tells a visitor a harrowing story about a Vietnam vet comrade and friend who once asked Red to kill him if he ever ‘sold out.’ Given that the man now lives in Ladue and was embarrassed by Red’s behavior at a recent pool party, Red thinks it’s time to honor that request. It’s a chilling look at a wasted individual about to turn violent.
There’s an hilarious piece called Inner Baby in which a driven dude rants on about feeding one’s ‘inner baby’ and satisfying selfish desires to keep that child happy, regardless of the consequences inflicted upon others. And an Artist who has bitterly denounced the world and proclaims that he’s now keeping all of his artistic creations within his mind so that they aren’t corrupted by the world.
A pompous tycoon in Live vulgarly proclaims his quest to have the best in everything, sneering at people who ‘waste’ their money on their kids or some altruistic claptrap, and a frenzied preacher who extols a road to salvation that seems more hollow than hallow.
Through it all, Hanrahan seamlessly changes personae with a nod or the removal or addition of a garment or hat to introduce a different character. Bogosian’s men are usually nasty and ill-tempered or at least lacking in philanthropic impulses, and Hanrahan is adept at capturing their meaningless existences.
He’s also adapted Bogosian’s 1991 script to suburban St. Louis with a number of references, although a rock star and a tycoon don’t really ‘fit’ with a Midwestern city as easily as they would in Manhattan.
The primary problem with Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll is that it’s more of the same, for the most part, with each character. Thus, it can be monotonous at times.
By the end of this 75-minute excursion into excess, however, Hanrahan is dripping in sweat and the audience doubtless feels better about our own lives, and perhaps superior as well. Except to the Bottleman.
Play: Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll
Company: The Midnight Company
Venue: Herbie’s Vintage 72, 405 North Euclid
Dates: August 8, 9, 10, 15, 16, 17
Tickets: $15-$20; contact 800-838-3006 or brownpapertickets.com
Rating: A 4.5 on a scale of 1-to-5.
Photos courtesy of Todd Davis