Drinking in America

You had me at the title. “Drinking in America” is a 1986 Eric Bogosian play, and was the season opener for The Balagula Theatre Company in its new space at the Farish Theater in Lexington. It was a one man show starring Adam Luckey, who deftly plays 12 individual characters in vignettes crossing a spectrum of circumstances.

This was a pleasure to attend, and a performance where I could sit back and allow Luckey’s animated renditions of various stoners, drunks and zealots to wash across me. In “Journal,” the plays opening monologue, Luckey portrays a young college student tripping on acid who is staying at his parent’s house. When the doorbell rings he opens it, naked, to find a beautiful woman standing there. He invites her in and they share a creepy interlude that ends badly, with the woman fleeing the house. Our tripping college student has a moment of psychedelic clarity, and auto-corrects what just happened by convincing himself that she wasn’t ready for the powerful attraction they shared, and that he is clearly irresistible. His solution, drop out of college and move to Portland, OR.

There was plenty of drinking, marijuana, cocaine, Quaaludes and heroin throughout the evening. While the activities portrayed are heightened through the use of alcohol and chemicals, there is a dark underside made obvious, that these are coping mechanisms and usually there is some kind of frightening behavior displayed that gets explained away at the moment, but the inference is clear that the incident will have serious implications later.

In “Our Gang” Luckey recounts a wild night of partying with friends that involved a toxic cocktail of chemicals, and while the “gang” thought they shared a bonding experience of overcoming obstacles in their nocturnal journey, the reality is they stole a car, physically assaulted three innocent people, and destroyed all manner of property.

Not every portrayal involved a controlled substance. In “Godhead” it was the pulpit of religious extremism that intoxicated the character. In “Melting Pot” it was work-work-work. That was the only thing that mattered, and the only way to reach the American Dream.

Luckey did an amazing job of shifting so quickly in and out of character, usually with only well-chosen snippets of music or other sound references to help exit the previous scene and open the next. Congrats to The Balagula Theatre Company and Adam Luckey for putting on such an entertaining performance.

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