Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll

Portraying the radical bastards of Eric Bogosian's one-man show 'Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll,' Ken Webster is a babbling bear on crystal meth

Arts Review

Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll

Hyde Park Theatre, through Oct. 15

Ken Webster is wearing a camouflage jacket and panhandling to the audience, pleading that, as a drug addict, he needs more attention than starving children in Africa. In a subsequent scene, he plays a Brit rock star pseudo-environmentalist who sends truckloads of cigarettes to Amazonians. Later, he is a charmless redneck lothario disclosing the magnitude and measurements of his conquests. Webster is leaving behind his usual earthy tone and morphing into the radical bastards of Eric Bogosian's one-man show Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll.

Like David Mamet, Harold Pinter, and Daniel MacIvor, Bogosian has become a common name for shining a light on archetypal menaces. And Webster loves all four of them, or at least he liked to produce their plays often during the years that he ran Subterranean Theatre Company. His direction and acting have turned him into a snarling force in the community. You could think of Webster as a grizzly bear, especially if you heard his theatre-shaking roar in House, the MacIvor solo show that Webster performed just after becoming artistic director of Hyde Park Theatre. Under Andrea Skola's direction here, he's a babbling bear on crystal meth.

The uproarious play holds a black light up to the fluorescence of Bogosian's punk characters and urban environment. Paul Davis' grungy set is a disarray of spray-paint graffiti and cardboard cutouts of people transported from the early 1990s. You can almost smell the urine and feel the sewer-water spray of a corroded New York City alley. Don Day's lighting depresses Bogosian's pessimistic lowlifes, giving the junkies five o'clock shadows and the arrogant upper crust their white collars. The only banality was hearing the same Ramones guitar riff played between monologues, reminding us again and again and again that the Ramones are synonymous with rock & roll.

This play from 1991 may contain strong language and suggestive themes, but these days it hardly lives up to the enticement of its name. Its drug addicts, promiscuous bar hoppers, Italian ruffians, and homeless sociopaths are so much of their time that they can't help but feel dated. And yet the rambling nihilistic philosophies and sarcastic, self-involved attitudes of Bogosian's malcontents still speak to us today. Men driven by selfishness and cynicism are perpetual issues for any generation.

Especially when they're portrayed by an actor of Webster's skill. His flippant Brit, his dumbo laugh as the Italian, his sniveling nasal sociopath in the hilarious "shit-fuck-piss" piece are what is enticing about this production. In his hands, Bogosian's wild monologues aren't just rants but actual narratives.

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Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll, Eric Bogosian, Hyde Park Theatre, Ken Webster, Andrea Skola, House, Paul Davis, Don Day

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