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The Carletonian

ETB takes a shot at Bogosian

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This term at Experimental Theater Board, Ethan Ramsay ’17 has taken on the monumental task of directing Eric Bogosian’s 1986 collection of monologues Drinking in America. His two actors, Sam Bearak ’17 and Austin Nerueiter ’17, each embody six characters in an exploration of what it means to be “American” through the provocative monologues, which tell stories of comedy, pain, and more than a few drinks.

This is the third Bogosian show that’s gone up during my time at Carleton, after last winter’s SubUrbia and this winter’s Talk Radio.

Drinking in America deals with similar subject matter, aiming sharp criticisms of American society through the stories of ordinary people, such as a preacher, a suburban dad, and a Hollywood talent agent.

Bearak and Neureiter are remarkably convincing as they switch between Brechtian interactions with the audience and the many invisible supporting characters onstage. Their various accents are sometimes questionable, at least to my untrained ear, but their attempts were better than many professional productions I’ve seen, so I can forgive them.

The danger of a monologue show is that it can sometimes seem disjointed and unconvincing, but Neureiter and Bearak effortlessly jump into the psyches of the full gamut of white American men (the show aches for diversity, unfortunately, but the nature of the show makes that difficult to achieve).

Bearak shines in the lengthy “Our Gang”, when he eagerly tells of his adventures in car theft and arson, and embodies a man retelling a story from his college years with candor and maturity all at once.

Bearak drives Bogosian’s point home in the final monologue, “Fried-Eggs Deal”, as a homeless drunk man talking to a wealthy couple, telling them, “you can’t have the top if you don’t have the bottom.”

Neureiter stands out as a slimy industrial ceramic tile salesman in “Ceramic Tile” and a passionate preacher giving a sermon to his congregation in “The Law”. As a suburban dad in “No Problems”, he tells the audience of his seemingly perfect life (“We’ll go to a play, or a movie with Meryl Streep in it!”) while simultaneously wrestling with its emptiness.

This show is funny, but I must admit that the atmosphere in the theatre was a bit more casual than in most plays I’ve attended, which was distracting at times. Overall, however, Drinking in America presents interesting, varied characters that engage in an electrifying banter with the audience, and Ramsay’s simple direction lets the monologues soar. Cheers to Ramsay, his cast and crew for taking on such a deceptively simple, yet incredibly complex commentary on American society.


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