The young and versatile actor Eric Scotolati, who in four seasons has appeared with at least nine theater companies here, is being put to the test at Plays & Players in Eric Bogosian’s series of one-man ranting monologues, “Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll.”
Scotolati passes – and not only that. He’s the main reason to see the show, a piece from 1990 that was current as next day’s sun when Bogosian first performed it Off-Broadway and now shows its seams with references to Vice President Quayle, Phil Donahue, Mr. Ed and the Concorde, to name a few.
Still, the subjects Bogosian covers apply today – business greed, pollution, our computerized lives, homelessness and several others. The director Allison Heishman does a fine job giving each monologue its own particular stage feel, and also defining the tones of the 11 characters in her program note. “Despise. Disgust. Spite. Scorn. Abhor. Loath. Detest. Hate.” That may sound like a perfect description of, say, talk radio (another subject Bogosian has amply covered on stage), but in fact it tags “Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll” to a tee.
Unlike talk radio, these characters can be funny. Bogosian fills the pieces with little ironies, and Scotolati – a smart actor whose voice, facial expression and general demeanor changes with each new persona he adopts – knows how to wring a laugh from deadpan monologue. As a result the show, which offers a lot of commentary mostly coming from the mouths of miscreants, is constantly entertaining. My bet is that even if you’ve seen it before (it’s not much performed nowadays), in Scotolati’s hands it delivers surprises.
From the get-go Scotolati’s performance, on an almost bare stage save for a table, a chair, a glass of water and a can of beer, is clear in its characterizations. “I’m an amazingly wonderful human being,” he tells an imaginary interviewer in his first monologue as a rock star, “and I’m honest enough to say that today.” A funny line, and thoroughly dismissible as anything sincere – but you can see that the guy, in Scotolati’s interpretation, is dead earnest. It makes the character more of a puzzle.
Later on, Scotolati’s a womanizer who has just one thing going for him – and size, he implies, really does matter. He could play the character as smug, but he plays him in a more endearing way, as almost innocently self-assured. “This kind of quantity and quality is in limited supply,” Scotolati says, delivering the line as if it comes from a Dow Jones advisory.
“I want to be normal – I want to be rich. I want to be famous. These are normal desires that should not be thwarted,” another character, toward the play’s ending, declaims. By that time, Scotolati had been sculpting these characters so clearly, you might wonder whether several actors had been on stage throughout.“Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll,” runs through June 21 at the upstairs Skinner Studio in Plays & Players Theatre, on Delancey Place between 17th and 18th Streets. 866-811-4111 or www.playsandplayers.org.