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Theater Review : Frank Talk From Man to Man

March 18, 1995|NANCY CHURNIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

SAN DIEGO — If there is one sense that can carry a writer further than any other, it's his hearing.

*

One can debate endlessly whether Quentin Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction" has anything of value to say about anything, but you've got to give the guy credit for knowing how people talk.

A writer with an ear projects a you-are-there quality. The work doesn't sound written--it seems overheard. And audiences eavesdrop with guilty pleasure, trying to figure out what kind of worms gnaw at the grass on the other side of the fence.

For Eric Bogosian, it's the ear that propelled his career. Even in the inherently artificial format of monologues, Bogosian's characters--mostly angry white males--exude that enviable aroma of truth. It's brutal, funny, sad and hypnotic.

And not just when he is performing them. For as electric, dangerous and sexy a performer as Bogosian is, works such as "Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll" can be played by others--as Louis Seitchik demonstrates so ably at the Fritz Theatre here, tonight and March 25.

Caveat: Seitchik does only six of the 12 monologues from the show. And though that may deter purists from even walking in the door, keep in mind that it's a late evening, running from about 10 to 11 p.m. (immediately after the Fritz production of "Fat Men in Skirts").

The monologues still suggest the whole, forming an arc that works--although without the nuances and gradations the entire cast of characters affords.

Seitchik dives with abandon into the narcissistic obsessions of these men and their desperation to escape through sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. Truth is something they swear to right before the big lie. Compassion is for losers who are never going to get that Ferrari. Vision is a dangerous handicap that can get you locked up. Love is a handy word to get a woman into bed.

What passes for depth for these guys is: "Sometimes you gotta spit in the devil's eye . . . just to make sure you're alive." And what makes them revel is "the icing on the gravy."

Seitchik, who directed himself, keeps the staging simple.

He begins with jeans, a black leather jacket and shades for "Benefit," a monologue by a self-important, pseudo-liberal rocker, urging kids to give up drugs--though he has a tendency to lapse nostalgically into the memories of his own drug days.

He doffs the jacket and shades and sports a white T-shirt for "The Stud," a monologue by a man taken with his sexual prowess. He then switches to a black shirt and picks up a beer to tell the "Stag" story, about a guy who throws what he considers the ultimate guy party for his to-be-married friend--complete with porn movies, bimbos, clam dip, ruffled potato chips, Jack Daniel's, cocaine and marijuana.

Slight and slightly balding, Seitchik does best with the more manic characters.

*

His least successful interpretation is "Bottleman," a too gentle, too sad look at a homeless man who collects and sells bottles for food. Most powerful is his "Rock Law," a heartless Mametian corporate type who plays with the minds of his competitors, wife, children, lover and subordinates. He lies, manipulates and is altogether obsessed with winning his constant mind games.

Other than a narrow coffee table for a few simple props--a phone, cigarettes, lighter, beer, sunglasses and paper cups, "Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll" is played against the background of "Fat Men," which is airplane wreckage. It seems curiously appropriate.

* "Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll," Fritz Theatre, 420 3rd Ave., San Diego. Saturdays, 10 p.m. Ends March 25. $10. (619) 233-7505. Running time: 1 hour, 2 minutes.

By Eric Bogosian. Directed and performed by Louis Seitchik. Light board: Viola Pastuszyn.

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