Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll, Journeymen, at Angel Island. Eric Bogosian has always seemed more cartoonist than dramatist–a problem that’s easy to overlook when he’s performing, given his incendiary oratorical skills and gift for mimicry. But when Bogosian’s words are spoken by other actors they often seem heavy-handed and repetitive, his targets easy, and his social commentary all too obvious.
The lowlifes, hypocrites, and twisted visionaries who populate the 1980s landscape of Bogosian’s collection of monologues Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll can rarely be viewed as human beings. Like the freaked-out callers in his Talk Radio or the aimless youth of Suburbia, they’re extrapolations, exaggerations, familiar stereotypes. Though in this universe the laughs and wry observations about the greed and injustice of late-20th-century America come easy, Bogosian never allows us to make our own judgments–he’s always there with a cheap joke telegraphing who’s an idiot, who’s a crackpot, and who’s worth listening to.
When director Frank Pullen jacks up his performers and background music to Bogosian-level adrenaline and decibels–most notably in Todd Oldham’s volcanic Jersey thug and Steve Walker’s exceedingly well paced liquored-up street prophet ranting against pollution–the Journeymen’s production delivers an exhilarating ride. But two and a half hours is a long haul for a rather facile late-night show that gets by primarily on smug, condescending caricatures. By the end, no amount of rambunctiousness, angry shouting, or cranked-up Zeppelin tunes can disguise the work’s shallowness.