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POUNDING NAILS

As David and Joe drank together one night after rehearsal for The New Theatre’s production of PSYCHOPATHIA SEXUALIS, they discussed their next projects, and found, with nothing on the boards for either for them, that this was the exact right time to start “their own group.”

Things came together quickly. David had a contact at The Forum for Contemporary Art (a small, innovative space in Grand Center which was shortly to become the larger, and Grander, Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis.) They realized that an initial project like Eric Bogosian’s POUNDING NAILS IN THE FLOOR WITH MY FOREHEAD would be something they could pull off (Joe having performed two of Bogosians solos previously with David directing the most recent, SEX DRUGS ROCK & ROLL). And out of the blue of the night came a “cool” name for the group – Midnight Productions (later changed to The Midnight Company.)

This initial effort became the M.O. for the group – finding unusual plays and unusual spaces that suited each other.

The Forum welcomed the performances - their second floor gallery, with an exhibit of new abstract paintings was the perfect setting for Bogosian’s fractured view of modern male society – and the show became an auspicious debut for the group. Enthusiatic audiences and strong reviews were the result. And David and Joe were happy to reflect fondly on the show, but they had just a short time to do that. For they were going to get a chance to pound nails with their foreheads once more.


POUNDING NAILS
St. Louis Post-Dispatch review
Reviewed by Judy Newmark

Vulgar, angry and outrageously funny, Eric Bogosian’s “Pounding Nails In The Floor With My Forehead” is essentially a series of character studies, concentrating on men who range from the seriously troubled to the positively repellant.

Originally, Bogosian played them all. Now Joe Hanrahan, starring the short one-man show, demonstrates that you don’t have to be their author to bring these characters to aggressive life.

He opening sequence, “Molecules,” gets the evening off to a loathsome, but powerful, start: A bum in the subway is talking in amazing detail about his bodily excretions. “Molecules” is one of the very few scripts capable of triggering the gag reflex all by itself. In opening with it, the author no doubt intends to slap the audience into an awareness of his phenomenally anti-bourgeois sensibility, and he certainly succeeds. Luckily, after that the aesthetic climbs out of the gutter, although the language remains coarse throughout, with a lot of vivid talk about sex, drugs and violence. The show is not for the gentlefolk.

Hanrahan, whose slurred speech and bent gait suit the bum very well, cleans up nicely for the characters to come, among them a guilt-ridden suburbanite, a doctor prescribing he worst medicine in the world, and a “recovering male” who confesses his shame to fashion models in magazines because of the fantasies he harbors about them.

With its deep-seated anger, and the author’s anguished swings between the longing for numbness and the desire to feel something, monotony is never a problem in this show.


Riverfront Times review
Reviewed by Bob Wilcox

Eric Bogosian reports from the front lines of the wars being waged all around us. His characters vent their anger and frustration at society for its corruptions an cruelties and at themselves because they haven’t been corrupt and cruel enough to succeed in our society.

Most of the guys who appear in the eight brief monologues that make up the hour-long “Pounding Nails In The Floor With My Forehead” we have met before, from the naïve 12-stepper to the convolutedly self-aware artist. Bogosian pushes them a little further, then adds his own twist. What the Alcoholics Anonymous type confesses is that he is a man, guilty of not having an addiction but of having a penis, driven by his gender to do awful things – “sometimes I feel like a human being trapped in a man’s body.” A subway bum spins an ingenious theory that makes the molecules of his excrement the source of the spreading disease of fear in our culture. Sometimes, though, as in a doctor’s description of the side effects of the medicine he’s prescribing, the satire barely moves beyond the familiar and predictable. And sometimes, as in the final piece, “Blow Me,” Bogosian fails to lift his character’s obsession with obscenity to the level of poetry he’s straining for. But always he packs his writing full of smart, nervous energy.

“Pounding Nails” is the third Bogosian solo piece Joe Hanrahan has performed. I think it’s Hanrahan’s best. He usually has a characteristic quality, rhythm and inflection – or lack of inflection – in his voice that has in the past limited him in expressing the full range of Bogosian’s characters. I rarely heard that Hanrahan voice in this show. Probably David Wassilak’s direction has helped Hanrahan give the pieces such satisfying shapes. Though we see only the one character that Hanrahan is playing, the person he’s talking to is also crystal clear. Sometimes we in the audience are that person, and the performance space in the third-floor gallery at the Forum For Contemporary Art makes it an intimate conversation. “Pounding Nails” keeps you awake and alert and a little more alive than usual.


Intermission Magazine review
Reviewed by Sarah Bellum

I relish the psychological and symbolic imagery that manifests in my mind each time I hear the title to Eric Bogosian’s play, “Pounding Nails In The Floor With My Forehead.” Although it possesses the same painfully cathartic aura as a Jim Rose Circus Sideshow act, “Pounding Nails” is more capable of transporting its audience to a complex level of the human psyche.

When I hear that an actor or group of actors might be daring enough to approach a Bogosian script, I jump a the chance to witness its reenactment. Midnight Productions premiere of “Pounding Nails” was held at the Forum For Contemporary Art in November last year. I missed it and kicked myself for weeks afterwards. Luckily, I ran across the same black and white graphic of Joe Hanrahan with a pseudo puncture wound in his head a the opening of IN/FORM. I refused to let this opportunity pass me by again.

David Wassilak and Hanrahan successfully managed to stay true to the Bogosian style: One actor exhaustingly portrays a series of diverse characters. (I once saw “Sex, Drugs, Rock ‘N’Roll” assembled with a cast of 10 actors. I found it to be not near as effective.)

I was privileged to have held a rather lengthy conversation with Vernon Gross, artist and board member of IN/FROM, after Hanrahan’s performance. Gross revealed that he happened to be in Hanrahan’s presence before the show began. Ross actually witnessed a disturbing out-of-body transition as Hanrahan metamorphosed into the play’s first character, an intrusive, barbaric and bitter street bum.

As Hanrahan limped onto the stage armed with a maniacal grin and a dark trench coat, one would never expect the plethora of distinctly different personas waiting in the wings for their debut. It appeared that Hanrahan was method acting at light speed.

Using minimal props: a spatula to distinguish the beer-loving suburbanite, A-1 barbecue chef and sports “Fan.” The audience was consistently confronted with a strong dose of Americana by way of Hanrahan’s “in your face” approach. He satirized our everyday existence with a kaleidoscopic spectrum of people we love to hate. This performance exemplifies such a strong sense of reality, it is hard to know whether to laugh or cry. Anyone with half a heart and a minimal amount of vitality could easily experience both.


Eric Bogosian's Pounding Nails in the Floor with My Forehead
Reviewed by Mark Glass

KDHX Radio

Eric Bogosian has certainly made a name for himself as one funny, angry dude. He's won Obie and Drama Desk awards for his work, and critical acclaim for his film, Talk Radio. No surprise that his newest one-man theatrical piece is another serving of the same. Pounding Nails in the Floor with My Forehead is a collection of eight pieces, with a common theme. Each is uttered by a guy who isn't very happy, and expresses his rage with an acerbic, edgy wit.

Joe Hanrahan performs this demanding sequence of monologues for Midnight Productions with remarkable range and energy. For about an hour, he flashes from one persona to the next, using minimal props and costumes. The transitions are so swift that the audience may not always be sure when he's done with a routine. But his voice and body language convincingly distinguish each guy from the others. None of the characters relate specifically to each other, but the thread of frustration, breeding the threat of violence, runs in all of them, as it does in all of us. These men aren't stupid - they're just variably-scarred veterans of contemporary American society.

Hanrahan enters as a New York subway bum, gleefully (if grossly) telling us how we may find him disgusting, but his molecules will get us in the end, no matter how far removed we think we are. One of the later characters - a blue-collar escapee to the suburbs - becomes a prime example.

The second piece starts innocently, as he thanks the audience for coming, but seething resentment of our relative positions turns hilariously bitter. Same a bit later for a wannabe actor meeting the night's star after a show - first fawning, then raging.

Perhaps the funniest segment is a motivational-seminar speaker, urging us to get in touch with our inner baby - a level far more self-indulgent and insensitive than the hackneyed "inner child"of pop-psych renown. He mocks the self-help industry more effectively than the late Chris Farley did in his Saturday Night Live skits, as the polyester-clad loser living in a van by the river.

Bogosian's script covers everything we are ticked off about - politics, the economy, cultural values and, of course, sex and the gender wars. The "Recovering Male" soliloquy lays waste to the guilt-trip imposed on post-feminist males. Most of the satire is dead-on, and Hanrahan delivers it as pungently as Bogosian, himself. He conveys the rage without losing a speck of the humor. As you'd expect, since Hanrahan's previously performed Bogosian's Drinking in America and Sex, Drugs, Rock 'N Roll. The barebones industrial setting also features the works of several artists, so you can pick your seat, then peruse the collection before or after the show.

You'll certainly be entertained by Hanrahan's performance, and may even find a painting or sculpture while you're at it.

 

 


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Revised: October, 2007
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