Strickland succeeds in solo show Wake Up And Smell The Coffee

Funny but intense, senior Ben Strickland's rendition of Wake Up And Smell The Coffee in Sturges Auditorium at 8 p.m. on Thursday, March 1 attracted a small but appreciative audience. He performed the hour-and-a-half long monologue by Eric Bogosian as part of his senior practicum project, a requirement which all theatre majors at Geneseo must fulfill.

Bogosian, an actor well-known enough to have a page on the popular movie Web site, wrote the script using some of his improv experiences as inspiration. The script features different scenes with different characters, all played by one actor. Each has a title like "Harmonious" or "Upgrade" which relates to the larger story being told.

The characters were typically males with distressing personal issues, including a man daydreaming about seducing a stewardess, an alcoholic father, a nervous actor auditioning for a role, an Indian wise-man, and a yuppie in an airport. "[Strickland] did a good job switching from scene to scene," said freshman Nick Pontorio.

The play was aggressively controversial, but occasionally featured some comedy. Characters mocked religion, materialism and the audience. In one scene Strickland impersonated the devil. In "Gold Card" he played a wealthy businessman who has no time for his family. In "Faith" he called his god "A capricious little f***er."

Themes included hypocrisy and the inadequacy of today's modern, materialistic culture. Strickland, playing the Indian wise-man, told the audience that, "money brings deep and abiding harmony." In "Gold Card" the rich businessman coldly informed a "regular" passenger that he could not stand in the "Gold Card" line, yet went into fits when another man with a Gold Card cut in front of him in line.

Perhaps more cliché was the play's criticism of a wealthy film director in "The Meeting," who praises his assistant Naomi's work at Columbia University but snaps at her when she forgets to bring him a napkin with his coffee. Another scene had Strickland's character describing a sexual fantasy in detail.

Interestingly, the scenes were all interconnected. The plane where the man wants to seduce his stewardess crashes and he saves her; the director in "The Meeting" wants to make a movie about that event. Two scenes-"The Audition" and "The Ladder"-feature actors hoping to get roles and become famous. Finally, three occur in the airport-"The Airport," "Gold Card" and "Upgrade."

The one-and-a-half-hour performance required intense memorization. "Basically I just kinda locked myself in a room and did it," said Strickland. He added that, "there wasn't a lot of input" from others before he performed, so he, "didn't even know if it was funny."