FUNHOUSE, Munki Haus, at Breadline Theatre Laboratory. Eric Bogosian’s 1983 one-man show has aged badly, firing at easy targets–insurance salesmen, televangelists, fitness guru Richard Simmons–without even bothering to hit them in unusual places. Displaying a nasty streak of class snobbery, Bogosian portrays working-class men as clueless about the limitations of their lives and tries to wring black comedy out of a demonstration of torture. Even before the Iraq prison scandal, this facile bit would have been troubling: Bogosian makes no effort to connect the torturer to the rest of us. But in the context of current events the scene is nauseating, without any dramatic payoff.
Funhouse could be an acting tour de force. But nothing in Cory Conrad’s mannered performance lifts the script above its limitations. He rarely trusts the unadorned words and hypes them to produce shock or poignancy. Directors Mark Macoun and Shaun O’Keefe have Conrad smoke a lot, affect palsy when he’s supposed to be old, and shout when he’s supposed to be insane. As a down-and-out war vet and as a prisoner facing execution, Conrad drops the actorly tricks and delivers a truthful–and painful–glimpse of reality. But in only a few scenes does anything like a genuine characterization slip through.