Playwright: Steven Strafford
Via: 16th Street Theater, 6420 16th St., Berwyn. Tickets: 708-795-6704 or 16thStreetTheater.org; . $12 per person/on your honor. Available through: April 4
The show cannot go on for so many live theaters nationwide. Safety measures put in place to stem the spread of coronavirus ( COVID-19 ) have put the kibosh on public gatherings.
However, 16th Street Theater in Berwyn has found a way to go ahead with its spring revival of Steven Strafford's acclaimed one-man show Methtacular! Audiences can buy a temporary stream of it online.
About Face Theatre staged the Chicago premiere of Methtacular! in 2014, so Strafford's quirky, confessional and adults-only show is already something of a known property. More audiences learned all about Stafford's drug addictions as a gay Chicago stage actor in his early 20s at the start of the millennium when Methtacular! was also briefly revived in 2016 as part of Steppenwolf Theatre's LookOut series.
Strafford had the foresight to professionally capture Methtacular! on video at Steppenwolf's 1700 Theatre. So it's this version of "Methtacular!" that 16th Street Theatre is presenting online.
Audiences can pay for a specific performance time to view the show with a special Vimeo link. You can choose to watch on your smartphone, tablet, computer or Smart TV ( I saw a Friday evening stream on my TV after connecting a high-definition cable to my laptop ).
I missed Strafford's previous two Chicago runs of Methtacular! Though I would have preferred to see the show live, the online stream was the next best thing in self-isolation.
As the title exclamation point suggests, Methtacular! is actually a musical! At key points in his nearly 100-minute monologue, Stafford performs funny songs tied to the often upsetting situations he's in due to his drive for sex and drugs ( William TN Hall is great as the pianist ).
A game show also pops up midway through Methtacular! It's just another way for Strafford to keep things light amid the many dark stories that get shared.
The video clips of Strafford's interview with his mother captures her genuine despair. And when the anecdotes do turn scary or violent, Strafford and director Adam Fitzgerald keep the storytelling going matter-of-factly through the explicit and shuddering details.
Methtacular! is enjoyable despite its horrible moments, but that's with the realization that Strafford has made it through recovery. It's also a nice touch that Strafford takes part in an online talkback via Zoom following the Thursday and Friday night streaming sessions.
But if you do sign on for the talkback, read the emailed ticket instructions. If your house is a mess and you're not wearing clothes, just opt for the audio-only linkup.