Bogosian, Eric 1953–
Bogosian, Eric 1953–
PERSONAL: Born April 24, 1953, in Boston, MA; son of Henry and Edwina Bogosian; married Jo Anne Bonney (a graphic designer and theater director), October, 1980; children: Harris Wolf. Education: Attended University of Chicago; Oberlin College, B.A., 1976.
CAREER: Actor and writer. Cofounder of Woburn Drama Guild, Woburn, MA; director and founder of dance program at the Kitchen in New York, NY. Actor in stage productions, including Careful Moment, Drinking in America, 1987, Talk Radio, 1988, Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'n' Roll, 1990, SubUrbia, 1994, Pounding Nails in the Floor with My Forehead, 1994, Griller, 1998, Wake Up and Smell the Coffee, 2000, Humpty Dumpty, 2004, The Worst of Eric Bogosian, 2005, and The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, 2005. Actor in television shows, including The Twilight Zone, Tales from the Dark Side, Miami Vice, Last Flight Out, Law & Order, The Larry Sanders Show, Witchhunt, A Bright Shining Lie, The Wedding Toast, Beggars and Choosers, Welcome to New York, Blonde, Shot in the Heart, Third Watch, Love Monkey, and Crime Story. Actor in motion pictures, including Caine Mutiny Court Martial, Talk Radio, Dolores Claiborne, Confessions of a Porn Star, Under Siege 2, Beavis and Butthead Do America (voice-over), Deconstructing Harry, Wonderland, Gossip, Ararat, and Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle. Co-creator of television series High Incident.
AWARDS, HONORS: Obie Award for playwriting, Village Voice, and Drama Desk Award for outstanding solo performance, both 1986, both for Drinking in America; Silver Berlin Bear for Outstanding Single Achievement, Berlin International Film Festival, 1989, for Talk Radio; Obie Award special citation, 1990, for Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'n' Roll; Obie Award for playwriting, 1994, for Pounding Nails in the Floor with My Forehead; National Endowment for the Arts theatre residency, 2001; Guggenheim fellowship, 2004.
Careful Moment, produced in New York, NY, 1977.
Slavery, produced in New York, NY, 1977.
Garden, produced in New York, NY, 1978.
Heaven, Heaven, Heaven, produced at Eventworks (Boston, MA), 1978.
Sheer Heaven, produced in New York, NY, 1980.
That Girl, produced in Chicago, IL, 1981.
Men Inside [and] Voices of America (double bill), produced Off-Broadway, 1982.
Advocate, produced in New York, NY, 1983.
FunHouse, produced Off-Broadway, 1983.
(With Michael Zwack) I Saw the Seven Angels, produced in New York, NY, 1984.
Drinking in America, (produced Off-Broadway, 1986; also see below), Vintage (New York, NY), 1987.
Talk Radio (produced Off-Broadway, 1987; also see below), Samuel French (New York, NY), 1988.
Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'n' Roll (produced Off-Broadway, 1988; also see below), HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1991.
Pounding Nails in the Floor with My Forehead (produced Off-Broadway, 1994; produced on CD, Blackbird, 1998), Theatre Communications Group (New York, NY), 1994.
SubUrbia (produced at Lincoln Center, New York, NY, 1994; also see below), Theatre Communications Group (New York, NY), 1995.
(With others) Love's Fire: Seven New Plays Inspired by Shakespearean Sonnets (produced at Public Theater, New York, NY, 1998), William Morrow (New York, NY), 1998.
Griller, produced at Goodman Theatre, Chicago, IL, 1998.
Wake Up and Smell the Coffee (produced Off-Broadway, 2000), Theatre Communications Group (St. Paul, MN), 2001.
Humpty Dumpty, produced at the McCarter Theater Center, Princeton, NJ, 2002.
Humpty Dumpty and Other Plays, Theatre Communications Group (New York, NY), 2005.
Author of numerous other plays, including The Ricky Paul Show, The New World, Men Inside, and Chasing the Dragon.
Eric Bogosian Takes a Look at Drinking in America (television production; adapted from Drinking in America), HBO/Cinemax, 1986.
(With Oliver Stone) Talk Radio (screenplay; adapted from Bogosian's play of the same title), Universal, 1988.
Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'n' Roll (screenplay; adapted from Bogosian's play of the same title), Avenue Entertainment, 1991.
Notes from Underground (contains novella Notes from Underground and play Scenes from the New World), Hyperion (New York, NY), 1993.
The Essential Bogosian, Theatre Communications Group (New York, NY), 1994.
SubUrbia (screenplay; adapted from Bogosian's play of the same title), Castle Rock Entertainment, 1997.
(Author of introduction) Physiognomy: The Mark Seliger Photographs, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1999.
Mall (novel), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2000.
Wasted Beauty (novel), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2005.
Contributor to periodicals, including New York Times and Esquire.
SIDELIGHTS: Eric Bogosian is an actor and writer who has garnered acclaim for his various stage productions, including several solo works. After graduating from Oberlin College in 1976, he worked odd jobs at a Westside theater in New York City and then went on to direct dance productions at the Kitchen, a forum for avant-garde works in New York. In 1977 he made his acting and writing debut with Careful Moment, a one-man show in which he played a range of characters, including a game-show host and a dancer. Throughout the next several years and into the 1980s, Bogosian developed and performed in similar works, each featuring him as a number of different characters. Among the more memorable of his characterizations, according to some critics, is his portrait of Ricky Paul, a particularly obnoxious comedian who harangues and humiliates his audience.
Bogosian eventually grew weary of performing in his solo, multi-character works, particularly those featuring the exhaustingly abusive Ricky Paul. In the early 1980s he wrote and directed The New World, a play in which he appeared, for the first time, with other actors. Bogosian followed The New World with another one-man production, Men Inside, featuring entirely new characters. That show, in which Bogosian plays a carnival barker and a success-seminar conductor, among others, was his first work to draw substantial attention from the New York press.
In 1983 Bogosian created FunHouse, in which he played such characters as a bum, a man with a rubber fetish, and a convicted killer awaiting execution. With this work Bogosian drew further recognition from reviewers. New York critic John Simon, though harboring reservations about FunHouse, observed that Bogosian possesses "imagination, wit … and a good ear for the rumblings of society's underbelly and the burblings of our brain-damaged media." Dance reviewer Kevin Grubb noted that Bogosian manages the difficult task of producing "an engrossing, though difficult-to-digest, brand of performance art." Grubb added that Bogosian's unsparing vision—which is sometimes horrific, sometimes humorous—makes him "one of our most important performing artists."
Bogosian impressed critics once again with Drinking in America, a fast-paced examination of life's more sordid denizens. In this self-authored production, he performed as a fatuous hippie; a manic, substance-abusing Hollywood agent; an empty-headed young vandal; and a pathetic wino. Frank Rich, in his New York Times review, described Drinking in America as "a breakneck, hair-raising comic tour of the contemporary American male psyche," while New York contributor Simon praised the production as "sardonic and uncompromising social commentary." Most of the skits, Simon added, "are precise, sharp, witty, and disturbing." This work, among Bogosian's most popular, ran Off-Broadway for sixteen weeks and was published in 1987. In addition, it was adapted by Bogosian and broadcast on cable television as Eric Bogosian Takes a Look at Drinking in America.
In his next work, the play Talk Radio, Bogosian limited himself to one characterization, that of a misanthropic, hyper-energetic radio talk-show host who regularly degrades those listeners foolhardy enough to phone in questions and comments to the show. Talk Radio drew the attention of filmmaker Oliver Stone, who collaborated with Bogosian on the script for a broader, multi-character film version that retained Bogosian in the lead role. Some reviewers thought the adaptation overwhelming in nature but unenlightening in effect, but other critics found it a bold, invigorating portrait of haywire America. Washington Post contributor Michael Wilmington, for instance, deemed it a "savagely audacious" work that "makes you laugh, makes you mad, and keeps you edgily watching for the killers in the shadows."
Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'n' Roll, Bogosian's next solo stage work, features the actor-writer's familiar gallery of street people and introduces several others, notably a blowhard rock star who seems to be exploiting the save-the-rainforest groundswell to further his own stardom, and a spiteful old man railing against the Industrial Revolution's repercussions of widespread, life-threatening pollution. Bogosian ended his performance with what New York Times reviewer Frank Rich described as a "chilling soliloquy," one in which a former hippie argues that the United States has become a nation enslaved by computers and other technological devices. Rich called Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'n' Roll a "brilliant show, [Bogosian's] funniest and scariest yet," and he praised Bogosian as "a great talent, a chameleon actor and penetrating social observer."
Pounding Nails in the Floor with My Forehead, another solo work, features Bogosian playing several bizarre and disturbing characters, including a drug dealer, a bigoted suburbanite, a platitude-mouthing pop psychologist, an arrogant doctor, and an ordinary man whose complacency is shattered by televised images of people starving in Africa. The production, like many of Bogosian's works, was directed by his wife, Jo Anne Bonney, who also served as dramaturge, with input into "what actually happens in the tone of the show," Bogosian told Back Stage interviewer Hettie Lynne Hurtes. William A. Henry III, reviewing the show for Time, called Bogosian "the subtlest and most daring" of solo performers. Back Stage critic David Lefkowitz pointed to Bogosian's "enthralling stage presence," but saw a "creeping familiarity" in the script. "Are Bogosian's losers all starting to sound the same?" asked Lefkowitz in his review. In addition to being performed on stage and published, Pounding Nails in the Floor with My Forehead was Bogosian's first performance work to be produced in a CD version.
Bogosian did not appear in his play SubUrbia, about aimless young people in a blue-collar suburb who spend most of their time hanging out in a convenience-store parking lot, eating junk food, drinking beer, and using recreational drugs. The promise of some excitement, however, comes with the return to town of a friend who has achieved some degree of fame, if not the top echelon of success, as a rock musician. When he arrives, the characters are drawn into sexual power games and violent struggles. New Republic contributor Robert Brustein found "structural imperfections" in the play but called it "a considerably more ambitious effort" than Bogosian's one-man shows. Bogosian is a "potentially strong, gritty playwright," Brustein added. Back Stage correspondent David Sheward deemed Bogosian's work "promising," although he suggested that the characters were underdeveloped. The film version of SubUrbia was released in 1997. John Simon, critiquing it for the National Review, termed the material "theatrical, not cinematic." He explained: "Transposed to the screen, it works about as well as a poem in a prose translation." Nation commentator Stuart Klawans, though, praised Bogosian's screenplay as being "well constructed in plot and frequently sharp in its dialogue."
Bogosian returned to solo performance work with Wake Up and Smell the Coffee, portraying characters that include a self-help guru, an unscrupulous film producer, and a fawning actor reflecting on his discomfort with being a celebrity. The show is "a commentary on two recent trends in American culture, a taste for pop spirituality and the quest for lots and lots of money, and it's strongest when it's tackling those two subjects directly and making connections between them," remarked Charles Isherwood in Variety. Isherwood found "plenty of bitter truth" in the monologues, but thought "the unremitting bleakness of Bogosian's work here grows somewhat monotonous." However, the critic noted that no matter what the material, "Bogosian is an amazingly magnetic live performer."
Bogosian's first novel, Mall, features the quirky characters one might expect from the playwright, such as a businessman with a penchant for voyeurism, a homemaker looking for sexual fulfillment, and a drug-addled teenager. One night at their local mall, they experience no ordinary shopping trip, but events of shocking violence as a gunman roams the building. In the New York Times, Janet Maslin stated that the book's characters "feel as if they need actors to make them complete," while allowing that Bogosian "manages to sketch, propel, and intermingle them with a Satirist's sure hand." Entertainment Weekly reviewer L.S. Klepp commented on Bogosian's "merciless, satirical vision" but saw the plot as lacking in credibility. Mother Jones contributor Ben Ehrenreich felt Bogosian's subject matter was overly familiar and his writing often cliched, "despite a few sharp, satiric moments." A Publishers Weekly critic, though, commended the author for his "droll remarks and dramatic pacing" and termed Mall "a typically Bogosian experience—lively and unique." Library Journal contributor Jeff Ayers called the book "an entertaining success," with well-conceived characters and effective flashes of humor even in terrifying scenes. Ted Leventhal, writing in Booklist, described Bogosian's writing style as "clever, vivid, and infused with very dark humor," and called the novel an "impressive, frightful work."
Bogosian continues to craft works for the stage, including Humpty Dumpty, a drama about two upper-class couples caught helpless in a power failure during a vacation in the country, and The Worst of Eric Bogosian, a solo piece that reprises some of his older material and adds new sketches. Bogosian also received praise from some critics for his performance as Satan in Stephen Adly Guirgis's 2005 play The Last Days of Judas Iscariot.
Bogosian's 2005 novel Wasted Beauty reflects the sordid underpinnings not only of urban life in New York, but of rural and suburban lifestyles as well. The novel's characters include a fresh-faced farm girl who loses her balance when she becomes a supermodel, the girl's desperate brother, and a seemingly happy married family man who meets the siblings during a hospital visit. A Kirkus Reviews contributor called the work a "dark, raunchy second novel … about sex and drugs in the big city." The reviewer concluded that the last third of the book is "gripping." A Publishers Weekly reviewer similarly characterized the novel as "a vicarious walk on the wild side," while praising the "great guilty pleasure of a story line." In the Library Journal, Bob Lunn likened Wasted Beauty to the nihilistic works of Bret Easton Ellis and Chuck Palahniuk, noting that Bogosian's plot "captures all the fascination of watching a train wreck unfold."
On his Web site, Bogosian made clear that he does not consider himself a performance artist. He called himself "a writer and actor who spent time around the art scene." He considers himself "a creator of monologues and solo shows … a playwright."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 45, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1987.
Newsmakers 90, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1990.
Art in America, April, 1986, pp. 189-190.
Back Stage, October 29, 1993, Hettie Lynne Hurtes, "Eric Bogosian Hits Hard by 'Driving Nails,'" p. 6W; February 25, 1994, David Lefkowitz, review of Pounding Nails in the Floor with My Forehead, p. 48; May 27, 1994, David Sheward, review of SubUrbia (play), p. 32; May 12, 2000, David A. Rosenberg, review of Wake Up and Smell the Coffee, p. 44.
Back Stage West, February 14, 2002, Scott Proudfit, review of The Worst of Eric Bogosian, p. 11.
Book, November, 2000, Don McLeese, review of Mall, p. 75.
Booklist, October 1, 2000, Ted Leventhal, review of Mall, p. 323; March 1, 2005, Jerry Eberle, review of Wasted Beauty, p. 1101.
Chicago Tribune, May 8, 1987; June 28, 1987; December 20, 1988; December 22, 1988.
Daily Variety, March 8, 2005, Robert Hofler, "Sinners & 'Scoundrels,'" p. 15.
Dance, January, 1984, Kevin Grubb, review of FunHouse, pp. 78-83.
Entertainment Weekly, December 1, 2000, L. S. Klepp, review of Mall, p. 92.
Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2005, review of Wasted Beauty, p. 65.
Library Journal, September 15, 2000, Jeff Ayers, review of Mall, p. 111; April 1, 2005, Bob Lunn, review of Wasted Beauty, p. 83.
Listener, June 16, 1988, p. 34.
Los Angeles Times, April 10, 1985; December 21, 1988.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, July 19, 1987, p. 3.
Mother Jones, November, 2000, Ben Ehrenreich, review of Mall.
Nation, March 3, 1997, Stuart Klawans, review of SubUrbia (film), p. 35.
National Review, March 10, 1997, John Simon, review of SubUrbia (film), p. 53.
New Criterion, June, 2000, Mark Steyn, "Waddling toward the Edge," p. 41.
New Republic, June 27, 1994, Robert Brustein, review of SubUrbia (play), p. 28.
Newsweek, March 24, 1986, p. 69; February 16, 1997, Jack Kroll, review of SubUrbia (film), p. 66.
New York, October 31, 1983, p. 60; February 3, 1986, p. 57; December 12, 1988, pp. 50-56.
New Yorker, February 3, 1986, p. 85.
New York Times, July 8, 1983; September 30, 1983; January 21, 1986, p. 15; July 30, 1987; December 21, 1988; February 4, 1990; February 9, 1990; November 20, 2000, Janet Maslin, "Attention, Shoppers: Gallows Humor."
New York Times Magazine, May 24, 1987.
People, May 16, 2005, Jonathan Durbin, review of Wasted Beauty, p. 60.
Publishers Weekly, October 2, 2000, review of Mall, p. 57; March 7, 2005, review of Wasted Beauty, p. 48.
Rolling Stone, February 9, 1989, pp. 95-97.
Time, February 15, 1994, William A. Henry III, review of Pounding Nails in the Floor with My Forehead, p. 67; March 7, 1994, W.A. Henry III, "One and Only," p. 66.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), January 6, 1991.
Variety, May 8, 2000, Charles Isherwood, review of Wake Up and Smell the Coffee, p. 88; April 15, 2002, Robert L. Daniels, review of Humpty Dumpty, p. 37.
Washington Post, December 20, 1988; December 21, 1988; December 23, 1988.
Eric Bogosian's Home Page, http://www.ericbogosian.com (October 4, 2005).