Nasty Shadows Theatre presented David Foster Wallace’s book of short stories, Brief Interviews With Hideous Men, as a series of monologues in Saint John on Nov. 20 and 21, and in Fredericton on Nov. 26 and 27. The production was proposed by donation in order to raise money for Movember.
The Fredericton-based troupe’s seven male actors –most recognizable faces from other local productions, delivered fifteen different monologues and dialogues. These monologues were skillfully edited from Wallace’s stories into manageable speeches for the actors.
In Fredericton, the setting was reminiscent of an AA meeting, with the actors being directed to share. The actors, some sitting amongst the public as if in the meeting, use their stations to tell the individual stories of the different men, often pretending to interact with their neighbours or other audience members.
Each of the monologues features a distinctive aspect of Wallace’s mastery of the English language, with the highlight being John Ball’s impressive interpretation of the Men’s room attendant monologue which is rife with complicated vocabulary, including medical jargon and the requisite list of excretion synonyms. A seasoned actor, Ball managed this convoluted text masterfully.
Other highlights included Michael Holmes-Lauder’s interpretation of the manipulative one-armed cowboy, Jesse LaPointe’s stoner “sexpert,” Ryan Griffith as the son of a violent father, the commitment phobic played by Matthew Spinney, and Ian Murphy as an Eastern European adolescent. The play’s director, Scott Shannon, rounded out the cast and is notable as a man who loves women.
Wallace’s play’s structure and some of its themes might be reminiscent of Eve Engler’s play and, consequently, some critics have called his book “the Vagina Monologues for Men.” Characters love talking about sex, objectify women, repeat endless stereotypes, describe orgasms and experiences of gang rape. However, the variety of women present in Engler’s work (based on genuine interviews) is not present in this play.
Wallace’s themes can only be unnerving to a contemporary audience’s politically correct sensitivities: there is talk of tits, blowjobs and drugs. However, as an ensemble, the monologues chosen do slightly undermine the overwhelmingly macho guise of Wallace’s characters… or perhaps this is the work of Nasty Shadows’ exceptional actors.
Sophie M. Lavoie writes on arts and culture for the NB Media Co-op.