Adam Fitzgerald is directing Methacular, an autobiographical one-man play, staring and written by Steven Strafford. In the play, Strafford talks about his sexuality, romantic life, and acting career, and how his Crystal Meth addiction interacted with, and got in the way of, all three. Because it is Strafford’s story, he has the authority to make it extremely funny, and it is.
Strafford moves seamlessly between singing, stand-up-comedy, and an improvised game show with an affability and chattiness that shows he is not just a gifted actor, but also entertainer and story-teller. Yet for all the comedy, Methacular is a confessional piece, albeit one that uses the genres of stand-up comedy and musical theatre. At times, we cannot believe what we are hearing as Strafford gives us the (first) names, dates, and (general) locations of his most humiliating and painful experiences, and when he does, we find ourselves in awe at his honesty and courage. I was not the only one in the audience thinking, “I could never talk about those kind of moments in my life.” Yet, for all this, the pathos is not as powerful as the humor, and that is problematic.
The writing, although fluent, was not as good as Strafford’s consummate acting and entertaining. I understand that Strafford wanted to write the play in a way which made sure that we never felt like we were being chided for laughing along with him, but the pathos and humiliation are directed and staged in such a way that the contrast between these experiences and Stafford’s warm humor is not brought out, and consequently neither are as affecting as they could have been. Sarah Hughney’s lighting and Wade Elkins and William TN Hall’s score (played live on the piano by Charlotte Rivard-Hoster with impressive energy and grandeur) are too static, not changing enough with the mood of the play. Perhaps they were afraid of the tacky effect a too-heavy contrast can produce, but erring the other way made the parts of the production strangely bland.
The one outstanding technical aspect of the play was the set (David L Arsenault). It looked very much like an authentic Chicago apartment, and proved remarkably versatile. We could easily believe that this was Strafford’s place, and then the place of whomever his lover happened to be, and the more generic parts of the stage served well for a psychic’s shop or a bathhouse. (Strafford’s skilled acting should be accredited here too.) A prominent television allows us to see interviews with Strafford’s mother, and having a recording of her playing on stage through the story of Strafford’s journey captures the confused feelings of alienation and constant-presence that he describes between them during his drug-addiction.
Overall, “Methacular,” although not as affecting as it might be, is an entertaining night, and we walk way admiring Steven Stafford’s talent, honesty, warmth, and courage. We feel privileged that he would share with us the story of his dejection and recovery, and we are happy that he has overcome his addiction and is leading a happy, successful, life, and that for one night we get to be a part of it. The About Face Theatre is producing Methacular at The Theatre Wit. The show runs thru September 26th with performances at 7:30 pm Wednesday through Saturday, and 4:00 pm on Sundays. The theater is located at 1229 W. Belmont Avenue.
Box Office: 773-975-8150
Running Time: 1hr, 30mins
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