By Joseph Hurley
STUCK, with Sean Power. At Welcome-to-the-Johnsons’, 123 Rivington St., NYC. Mondays through March 22
The extended monologue, long a familiar part of acting classes and theatrical auditions, has, over the course of the last few years, emerged as a staple item on the bill of fare of off-Broadway, fringe and club theaters, and has been approached by writers as diverse as David Mamet, Nicky Silver and Dublin’s Conor McPherson, to name just a few of the well-known dramatists who have turned their hands to the form.
One of the most vivid examples of the art of the solo performer on view at the moment is "Stuck," a 60-minute fever dream written by David Rubinoff and played by Dublin-born Sean Power, the only actor so far to have performed the high-intensity piece. Power got the role, that of a drug-abusing, out-of-work actor wandering the streets of Toronto out of an audition, but it fits him, in terms of energy and sensitivity, as though it had been written for him.
"Stuck" was first performed in January 1996 and Power has been performing it ever since it played Toronto’s celebrated Fringe in July 1997.
Jack, Rubinoff’s hero, strongly influenced by the writers he’s read, from his namesake, Jack Kerouac, to Allen Ginsberg, weaves and stumbles through Toronto in a dream state, seeking escape, danger, recognition, and, perhaps more ardently than anything else, affection and acceptance.
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He encounters amorous "nuns," sex-crazed Mormons, a potentially murderous pickup, and various other examples of the human flotsam and jetsam to be found in the lanes and byways of any of the world’s major cities.
Rubinoff’s text is studded with references to names and places that will be familiar to Canadians, but less so to most others, including mentions of the country’s one-dollar coin, called the "loonie." Similarly, the name Tim Horton won’t mean much to Americans but will register instantly to Canadians, who remember the professional hockey player who, long after retirement, died in a car wreck.
The local references are merely little tics in a strong, free-flowing text, no more significant, really, than the currants dotted through a loaf of soda bread. Rubinoff’s story is compulsively interesting, and Power’s interpretation of it is as galvanic and subtle a bit of acting as you’re likely to find.
As the compactly built young actor works his way through the tale of drugs and sex and loneliness, by turns sympathetic and repellent, he stands with his back to Rivington Street, with only a stool for an all-purpose prop, and illuminated only by the harsh light provided by an overhead lamp.
Power, who distinguished himself in two productions of the Bronx-based Macalla Theatre Company — first "Rinty," by Belfast playwright Martin Lynch, and then, this past season, Daniel Magee’s "Paddywack" — is almost certainly an actor on the verge of a career breakout. In addition to his work with Macalla, he delivered an excellent Prince Hal last summer in the Gorilla Rep’s open air production of both parts of Shakespeare’s "King Henry IV," and, even more recently, did yeoman service as a rabbinical student in the La Mama musical "Jews and Jesus."
Now a resident of New York, the actor has returned to the performance for which, despite his work with the Stratford, Ontario, Shakespeare Festival. he is still probably best-known in Canada.
"Stuck" will be playing at Welcome-to-the-Johnsons’ for the next few Monday nights, with an extension a possibility. The number for information is (212) 420-9911.