When the Going Gets Weird, the Weird Turn Pro, Passfield Hall Productions, at Cafe Voltaire. The image of Hunter S. Thompson as booze-swilling, pill-popping, coke-snorting, gun-toting outlaw journalist is a familiar one. But in the 25 or 30 years since he burst onto the countercultural scene with a book written from the belly of a Hell's Angels gang and the Kerouacian opus Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas, Thompson has survived primarily on his reputation. Predictably provocative political screeds since then have transformed the gonzo rebel into little more than the P.J. O'Rourke of the left.
Nevertheless, Thompson's outspoken rants and personal history--he's been variously labeled a wife beater, gay basher, and paranoid recluse--could have made for an intriguing one-man show. But adapter-director Joel Simon seems more interested in creating hagiography than dramatic biography, and this 80-minute pastiche of Thompson's works, performed by Krystofer Drogoszewski, is about as controversial as a political stump speech.
Any collection of Thompson's works will have its moments of humor and inspiration, and the writer's early, hysterical prose still shines. But Simon devotes too much time to Thompson's pedestrian latter-day tirades against Richard Nixon and George Bush, and Drogoszewski has neither the age nor the presence to embody the spirit of a man who was called "the most violent son of a bitch that ever walked the earth."