Wake up! One-man show ups the ante

"This is not a monologue— it’s a 90-minute play that happens to have only one actor," Amanda McRaven says. She’s talking about the new show that opens tonight in the Live Arts LAB, Wake Up and Smell the Coffee.
McRaven directs Benjamin Curns in the piece, which happens to be playwright/actor Eric Bogosian's latest take on the world as he sees it. "A director has to think completely differently in this situation, especially when the actor is very familiar with the text. Ben memorized and worked by himself for a month and then came to me," she continues.
McRaven's challenge has been to stay true to Bogosian's vision while not losing the momentum Curns had built on his own. As is true of much of Bogosian's work, this play is the kind of show that demands a "natural" tone– just a guy on stage talking to a room full of people.
"Ben has that natural quality already," McRaven says. Much of her work as a director has focused on the monologues that require Curns to develop a "character."
Curns and McRaven have worked together as actors and directors through the Staunton-based company Shenandoah Shakespeare, and he approached her with the script and the idea of producing the play in Charlottesville, quite a quest since the rights have not yet been released. Through some networking with Bogosian's agent, however, the two were luckily able to secure permission to stage the work.
Bogosian punches hard with this play; he jabs at Christianity, the capitalist work ethic, celebrity worship, and– with a pre-9/11 sensibility– terrorism. "As a director, I believe in yanking the audience out of their comfort zone. If you want to sit safely in the dark, go to the movies. Live theater has a different role to play," McRaven claims. "This play challenges us to think about things that we have been told to ignore in order to perpetuate a certain way of life. Parts of it will piss you off. Part of it pisses me off. That's why I'm directing it."
First performed in New York in 2000, Coffee is the latest in a long line of solo/monologue shows from Bogosian, the award-winning author of the plays Talk Radio and subUrbia. If you're feeling ready for the challenge, you can crank up the New Year with a slap of reality programming, theater-style.

Wake Up and Smell the Coffee plays Thursdays-Saturdays through January 18 in the Live Arts LAB Space, 609 E. Market St. 8pm. $7 at the door only. The theater opens one hour before the performance. 977-4177, ext. 108.