Foreplay, mild intoxicants and pop
Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll has some great monologues but in the end promises more provocation than it delivers
What sort of state is America in? The homeless try to create a halfway normal existence on the streets, marching to the sound of their philosophies of depravity. Corporate racketeers try to make a buck at the expense of all the other schmucks. Rock stars overindulge in women, mind-numbing jam sessions and drugs, and then turn around and give benefit concerts to supply the Amazonians with cigarettes and Walkmans.
This haphazard handful of characters represents the cast of Eric Bogosian’s play Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll. Performed by Brüka Theatre in the cabaret-style setting of Sub-Brüka, Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll hashes out society’s ills.
The play was originally intended to be a one-man show performed by Bogosian himself. It was a comment on the schizophrenia, the conflicts, the negativity and the doom of our modern world.
“I could have titled the show Conflicts and Meditations on My State of Mind in America in 1990,” wrote Bogosian in an introduction to the play from 1996, “but then the theater would have remained empty. Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll is a provocative title. It promises fun and excitement.”
The play comprises 12 monologues and a couple of prerecorded pieces. The characters each embody a complex and disturbing side of our personalities—sides that hopefully reside deep in our brains, tucked away in the dark caverns near the medulla oblongata.
In the monologue “Grace of God,” a determined panhandler (Lewis Zaumeyer) explained why he was hustling the audience. In “Dirt,” Allen Aston gave one of the more noteworthy derelict performances as a paranoid and mentally disturbed ne’er-do-well who was disgusted by America’s tolerance of dog shit. It was distressing and hilarious to hear him trace the path of destruction caused by doggie doo-doo. Then there was “Bottleman,” a monologue about a friendly, yet also disturbed, can collector (Simon Marx) who had a fondness for egg salad sandwiches. Aston’s performance alone would have been satisfying enough for me.
Many of the others characters were lackluster enough for me to spend more time thinking about the discomfort of my rear end than focusing on the action, or often the inaction, on stage.
What did stand out were the two monologues of actor Michael Grimm, who introduced us to the Bono-esque, one-time-drugged-out rock star-with-a-heart-of-gold in “Benefit” and the well-endowed, wife-and-girlfriend-thieving cowboy in “The Stud.” Grimm’s characters were so fun that I would have liked to see him doing the entire show as a solo act, like Bogosian had originally planned.
Another great performance was given by George Randolph in “Medicine.” Randolph played a doctor prescribing a drug with some silly little side effects … like loss of vision, temporary paralysis and severe nose bleeding.
The six or so remaining monologues failed to pique my interest. Some actors’ pieces stood wholly on their own, while others couldn’t even be salvaged by the better ones around them. There seemed to be little creative license exercised by director Kahele, who didn’t make any of the characters women as other productions have. And she didn’t play much with the parallels between the characters.
Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll contained strong language and adult issues, but it was not as exciting as the title implies. There was not much sex, little mention of drugs, and it didn’t make me rock or roll.