Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Bogosian, Tomlin Go Solo on Film the Two Popular Monologuists Make Their Stage Shows into Movies, with Mixed Results

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Bogosian, Tomlin Go Solo on Film the Two Popular Monologuists Make Their Stage Shows into Movies, with Mixed Results

Article excerpt

ONE-PERSON movies, which spotlight the skills of a single artist - usually filmed in a theater with a live audience - are handy vehicles for bringing onstage entertainment to a wide public. Performers as varied as Richard Pryor and Bette Midler have brought their acts to the screen in solo films. And occasionally a maverick artist brings a new twist to the format, as when Sandra Bernhard assaulted stage and cinema conventions in her postmodern "Without You I'm Nothing."

The latest examples of the solo-movie breed, featuring Eric Bogosian and Lily Tomlin, resemble Mr. Pryor's explosive monologues in their insistence on addressing today's social problems. In other ways, the movies are as different as can be. They both have something to say, but Mr. Bogosian gets his message across with a lot more style, wit, and bravado than Ms. Tomlin manages to muster.

Based on a recent stage work, Bogosian's film is called "Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll," a title guaranteed to grab attention as readily as a tabloid headline. Don't get the notion that Bogosian glorifies any of the above, however. In his view, preoccupations with such commodities - especially when they're celebrated and peddled by the culture industry - are a massive obstacle to constructive thought and action.

This is why his characters include a drug-damaged pop star, a barfly overflowing with self-adulation, a subway-car hustler, and an executive who sees love and business in the same manipulative terms. Bogosian plays them (and others) with chilling conviction, never failing to reveal the sad shortcomings that plague them and the society that's shaped their attitudes. Alone on a bare stage throughout the film, he demonstrates the versatility and energy that have distinguished much of his theatrical work ove r the years.

Since these qualities didn't come through so effectively in "Talk Radio," the comparatively conventional movie he starred in two years ago, it appears that the stage is Bogosian's natural habitat. …

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