Drinking in America | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Drinking in America


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Drinking in America, Face the Music Productions, at Strawdog Theatre Company. Eric Bogosian has been absolutely fearless about tearing into the brittle fabric of the American dream, attacking with equal zest the hypocrisies of the Reagan-Bush era and the Clinton administration. His 1986 one-man show Drinking in America (later distilled into a Cinemax special) did not represent his finest hour; indeed, most of these bits are not included in his current career retrospective. But they do rather brilliantly summarize his ethos: Bogosian's hooker-and blow-obsessed corporate reptiles may have faded from memory, but the anger in the piece is still waiting to erupt.

What's curious about Face the Music's revival, directed by Matt Engle, is how it vainly struggles to give Bogosian's heartless abominations a clear-cut moral value. It's an interesting choice that succeeds to some degree by virtue of the earnestness, grit, and determination of actor Brendan Melanson. What's missing is darkness of spirit, for which the dreamy chiaroscuro of Sergi Bosch's graphic design merely stands in. Melanson plays Bogosian's callous, guileless assholes well enough, but his heart and his affection for the material are so obvious that it's hard to escape the feeling that he's a really nice guy underneath.

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