To be a multitalent in multimedia is admirable, although that will never be a formula for superstardom, as most such performers sacrifice the adulation from the average E! Entertainment Television fan in return for peer respect. To earn a buck, the Julia Robertses of the world simply have to appear, not necessarily perform. But although Eric Bogosian has been around for a while and done a variety of things within the entertainment industry, his level of fame is such that he gets no free pass. When he shows up, he needs to deliver.
Bogosian has managed to stay in the peripheral of the public eye after a guest spot here (Miami Vice) or a one-off starring role there (The Twilight Zone), but his other work--the writing, small film and stage variety--has gained attention because it is seen as uncompromising. He's supposedly someone who does everything on his own terms, much like the characters (junkies, businessmen, hipsters, panhandlers and type-A personalities, mostly) that he often portrays. But that's an illusion: In Hollywood, compromises must be made to get anything accomplished, and Bogosian has done just that in SubUrbia, Richard Linklater's film based on Bogosian's semiautobiographical play, and Talk Radio, Oliver Stone's film based on his solo dramatic monologue.
His latest compromise--motivated by the good taste some of his characters have lacked--involves his performances that open the McKinney Avenue Contemporary's SOLO Series. In the wake of the events of September 11, Bogosian made the decision to scrap his tour of Wake Up and Smell the Coffee, which contains references to plane crashes and terrorist activity. Instead, he'll perform The Worst of Eric Bogosian, a best-of sampler of his one-man plays that includes excerpts from Drinking in America; Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll and Pounding Nails in the Floor With My Forehead.
But even if compromises are made to bring the work before an audience, Bogosian's originals still remain unbending. His vision is sharp and unflinching as it must be for him to create on the level with the universally applicable and timeless work he admires. It's work that transcends the trends and has staying power after the press junkets and talk show appearances are through.
In one of the letters on his Web site (www.ericbogosian.com, of course), he says that an artist is merely a channel for everything that surrounds him. Art is what is produced when the outside world passes through the filter/the artist who may not even be aware of it. The hybrid of theater, stand-up comedy and performance art that Bogosian produces for his solo work is delivered straight from the source and direct to the audience unbuffered by costumes, lighting, makeup or props. He stands on stage crutchless, soul bared and alone for all to see, dissect, criticize and applaud. The danger in such a performance provides the tension inherent to a good dramatic presentation. And, on stage, Bogosian provides the release.