Not since Lenny Bruce have I encountered a performer who explores moral ambiguity with such sardonic charm and abrasiveness as monologuist Eric Bogosian. His new piece, Dog Show (directed by Jo Bonney), is aptly titled: a slick, vigorous entertainer, Bogosian is like a show dog confidently performing his tricks for an admiring audience–but he’s not above snapping at the hand that applauds him. This program of skillfully etched, rawly comic, sometimes scatological character sketches–a menagerie of urban animals howling at the city primeval–barks and bites at the pretensions and presumptions of the with-it elite. One moment Bogosian is himself, challenging his fans’ smug responses and questioning his own ethical responsibilities. The next he’s a louse-infested street person haranguing subway riders about the infectious potency of his own ooze–the kind of guy most people in real life would avoid like the plague he embodies, but boy, they love him on the stage. Then he’s a “recovering male” searching for his inner baby; a corporate power broker juggling phone calls from the various people he’s screwing (his wife, his employees . . . ); a performance-art groupie gushing over his favorite star; a coke dealer speed-rapping hilariously about the subtleties of substance abuse to his stockbroker client; and a yuppie doctor casually telling an AIDS patient about the disastrous side effects of the drugs he’s prescribing. A disturbing streak of cruelty and arrogance runs through these and other vignettes, giving them a fascinating danger; Bogosian is often off-putting, but he’s talking about aspects of life that need to be addressed. Laugh by all means–but listen too. Wellington Theater, 750 W. Wellington, 975-7171. Through May 9: Thursday, 8 PM; Friday-Saturday, 7 and 9:30 PM; Sunday, 7 PM. $25-$35.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Paula Court.