JUNKIE, a Texan ceramic tile salesman, a
wino, a Yuppie on the make, a TV
evangelist of hate all these are
among the characters played by American
actor-writer Eric Bogosian in his new
show, Drinking In America. The theme of
the show is intoxication: America's
intoxication with power.
interested in power and the attraction of
power," says the intense and nervy
31-year-old. "I'm interested in how
it works, how it's manipulated and how it
affects my life and other people's lives.
I think power is attractive to everybody
whether they admit it or not."
His characters are
American stereotypes made familiar
through television and film.
"Americans spend a lot of time
watching themselves and dwelling on who
they are. Americans are so media involved
that they find it hard to be anything
without keeping in mind the media image
of what they are. My characters are not
average Americans, but I play around with
stereotypes we are all familiar with.
Stereotypes have a lot to do with the way
The characters are brought
to life with clipped, drily humorous
dialogue and gestures and expressions
which can display bigotry, greed,
loneliness and fear. Laughs are plentiful
but Bogosian's knack is to build 12 or so
characters into a montage a banner
of cultural identity which can provoke as
much as entertain an audience.
"I'm saying that
here's a set of problems that run through
my head on a day to day basis and I can't
get to the end of the puzzle. Maybe if we
put all these characters together some
kind of pattern will evolve."
Bogosian's act grew from a
disillusionment with the straight theatre
world of New York which he encountered as
a drama student. "I was totally
intimidated and in school it was all head
shots and trying to get into commercials.
There didn't seem to be much acting being
His friends were all
visual artists on the massively
incestuous performance art scene.
Bogosian did a show of his own on that
circuit, rewarding the audience for
enduring his "intellectual
bullshit" with a single character
portrayal at the end.
Acknowledging the greater
impact of the character over the bull, he
developed a collection of characters and
formed them into a show called Men Inside
in 1980. It examined the American male;
its myths, morés and machismo in a
haunting succession of monologues.
He further treated New
York audiences to a frenetic evaluation
of their own culture with Voices In
America. In this he parodied a
"typical " cross section of New
York radio. Horror newscasts and inane D
J babble raced from his mouth and
escalated into a mesmeric kaleidoscope of
sound both funny and menacing in its
painfully accurate mimicry.