|How To Be a Respectable Junkie|
A monodrama performed by Chris Bohan, a professor at CWRU and an old friend, Vovos based the piece on interviews with a man struggling with heroin addiction. "Before you solve a problem," Vovos told the Times, "you have to wrap your mind around it."
Tonight my wife and I caught the show at a one night only performance at the Parma-Snow Branch of the Cuyahoga Public Library. They have a four hundred seat auditorium and they filled the place. It is clear there is great interest in the subject, and in this performance.
One of my mentors said theater is a shallow education in everything. The "undergrad" show my fourth year was Lanford Wilson's Balm In Gilead. As part of our preparation we visited a halfway house and I was made aware of the use and effects of heroin.
The character I was playing was Dopey, who is addicted to heroin. If you are unfamiliar with Balm In Gilead, it's not easy to read. It takes place in and around a twenty-four hour diner around the year 1960. All the conversations overlap so you have to pay attention to exactly who is speaking to whom and what is happening.
|Balm In Gilead|
Two pages later, he delivers a two-page monologue.
The details are not in the stage directions or anywhere else in the script. But what I had learned about heroin filled in the details. He'd shot up outside before entering the scene. In an effort to stay awake, he'd ordered coffee, and promptly fell asleep. Waking up, he needed to vomit. After that, he would feel more or less normal for a while, until the urge to take more of the drug. Trust the playwright.
Solo performances can be a tricky thing, I speak from experience. You are alone on stage, so who are you speaking to? And why? The audience? Yourself? Vovos has the character of Brian creating an improvised "how to" video and this suits the material very well, providing context and structure. It is memoir, lecture, and dramatic interpretation of the living nightmare that is addiction. The lies, the crimes, the pain. There's a lot going on here in 80 minutes.
Bohan is an ideal partner in this work, a guy I know to have boundless compassion who is also a brilliant performer, intelligent and with impeccable comic timing. It's an outstanding performance, at once urgent and laid back. It's also an important education tool.
And they're taking it on tour! For better or for worse, I can't imagine there is a better time in history for a piece like this, check it out if you can.
Join the "How To Be a Respectable Junkie" Facebook page for information on future performances.