Eric Bogosian



The Guardian


A 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.

"I'm 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 people behave."

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 done."

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.



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