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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

'How To Be a Respectable Junkie' at Dobama Theatre Addresses the Horrors of Addiction

Posted By on Tue, Jun 20, 2017 at 8:44 AM

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We’re Number One, We’re Number One!! Yes, the state of Ohio is at the top in the nation…when it comes to deaths from opioid overdoses (Ohio Department of Health, 2014). Abuse of opioids, those drugs derived from opium, has become a way of life for many here in Buckeye land. So it’s appropriate that a play addressing that particularly horrific and confounding problem should have its world premiere here.

Although it’s sometimes wise to steer clear of plays that have an obvious healthcare or public service message, local playwright Gregory Vovos has crafted a powerful piece of theater in How To Be A Respectable Junkie. This one-person, 90-minute piece is a journey through the woes of a white-collar fellow who’s become hooked and can’t (or won’t) give it up.

Brian is a 30-something dude who lives in his mother’s basement because he wants to spend every dime of his salary on the drugs he lives for. But he’s coming to the end of his rope, so he’s decided to share his hard-won knowledge, expressed in the title, on a video recorder he’s recently stolen.

As he talks and rants to the camera, he exchanges “dialog” with his dog Hope, given to him by his mother on the off chance a pet might alter his doomed trajectory. We never see the yapping dog, which is kept in a crate covered with blankets, but we see plenty of Brian as he decomposes before our eyes.

Playwright Vovos clearly knows his way around this territory, and the details he uses to explain how druggies shoot up, avoid detection, and deal with relatives is brutally precise. The amazingly talented actor Christopher M. Bohan brings Brian to painful life, as Brian confesses his weaknesses and rages at “earthlings” for not understanding how difficult it is to fight this addiction.

The play is nearly perfect right up until the last ten minutes, when Vovos surrenders to that bugaboo of many playwrights: over-explaining. As a result, the show limps to a conclusion as the eventually healthy Brian delivers a mini-seminar on how he has a new purpose in life, all to the tune of “Amazing Grace.”

The ending, well-meaning though it is, is way too pat. But most of Junkie is right on the mark, showing us earthlings how it feels to be stuck on the business end of those deadly needles.

How To Be A Respectable Junkie
Through July 2 at Dobama Theatre, 2340 Lee Road, Cleveland Heights, 216-932-3396, dobama.org


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