Chicago Theatre Review
Agony and Ecstasy in Thrilling “Methtacular”
Unflinching in its honesty and hysterically self-deprecating in tone, “Methtacular,” the new one-man show written and performed by Steven Strafford, is one of the most thoroughly original theater experiences of 2014, a funny, touching, and challenging work of art that brings new meaning to the term “confessional theater.”
As with all successful one-man shows, the key is in the presentation. “Methtacular” charts the course of Strafford’s life from 22-year-old aspiring actor in Chicago, to desperate methamphetamine addict, to his present status as a successful, clean actor, and it does so in a manner that is thrilling and intimate in equal parts. Alternating between quiet confessional monologues, exuberant Broadway-style show tunes (sung with remarkable gusto by Strafford), and painfully honest videotapes of Strafford’s mother describing her reactions to the various stages of her son’s addiction, to watch “Methtacular” is to undergo many of the ecstasies and agonies that Strafford describes as indicative of the junkie experience.
And of course, anchoring the show’s meticulously detailed material is Strafford, who exhibits an energy and commitment that is nothing short of thrilling. Whether he’s singing forcefully to a spurned lover, describing the experience of getting high in painful intimacy, or conducting a hilarious meth-themed gameshow (with a couple audience-member contestants, to boot), “Methtacular” is, if anything, a perfect showcase for a deftly talented actor, and one I can’t wait to see in future Chicago productions.
It would be unfair, though, to say that Strafford accomplishes everything on his own, as the performance of “Methtacular” that I saw was executed perfectly. Particular kudos go out to the great accompanist Charlotte Rivard-Hoster, the direct (but clever) set by David Arsenault, and especially the masterful lighting by Sarah Hughey.
One caution – even by confessional standards, “Methtacular” is a remarkably confessional work; it’s no coincidence that Strafford references Joni Mitchell early in the show, because his writing gives even Ms. Mitchell’s “Blue” a run for its money. So though I cannot recommend “Methtacular” any more vigorously, anyone attending the show should prepare themselves for a penetrating look at the addict life, and all the excesses – both chemically, spiritually, and sexually – that come with such territory.
Reviewed by Peter Thomas Ricci
Presented August 24 – Sept. 28 at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago
Tickets are available by calling 773-975-8150 or by visiting wwww.aboutfacetheatre.org.
Additional information about this and other spectacular area productions is available at the one, the only, the indefatigable www.theatreinchicago.com.