Photo by Jay Michael FraleyThe Rude Guerrilla Theater Co. loves British playwright Mark Ravenhill, and it's easy to see why. Ravenhill's one of the up-and-coming satirical scribes being hailed in every dark corner of independent theater. He balks at formula; he loathes cliché; he loves getting his characters naked . . . and giving them oral sex and hand jobs. But he really loves cracking open your delusionally secure head by showing you the world as he sees it—the socially complacent, addicted-to-everything, hopeless, conservative, orgiastic, identity-sapping world. Yes, that will fuck with your head.
In his most recent work, deftly staged and artistically directed by Dave Barton, Ravenhill gives us Nick (Bryan Jennings), a Brit ex-con recently released from the pen after an almost-20-year sentence for attempted murder back in his Sex Pistols-loving, anti-establishment youth. When Nick is birthed into this modern age, he quickly becomes a bewildered, middle-aged, poof-looking punk floundering in an ecstacy-happy, denial-ridden land where all his peers have "cut out" their revolutionary pieces and filled the holes with fancy bits of prestige, power suits and petty causes. Jennings delivers a first-rate performance as Nick, filled with equal parts subtlety and passion. His ex-flame turned lesbian turned lawyer turned bisexual, Helen (Jill Cary Martin), and his new lassie, go-go-party-all-the-time Nadia (Erika Tai), keep Nick bouncing between familiar, depressing reality and energetic fantasy. Martin and Tai are excellent, with Tai digging deep and emerging stellar. Along Nick's wild ride we meet Nadia's best friend, Tim (a sad but likeable Steven Parker), a Scot with a progressing HIV infection who's seemingly emotionally untouched by it, and Tim's mail-order, Russian, booty-shaking boy toy, Victor (a sad but adorable Keith Bennett). Their doomed anti-love story is rife with disturbing gay stereotypes that are, unfortunately, often true.
Lots of crazy, revealing shit ensues, and after Nick gets jerked around enough, he finally concedes to meet the elitist conservative Jonathan (David Cramer), whom he tried to stab to death back in 1984 and who has been tracking Nick ever since his release. The exchange between the Tory and Nick at first hints of A Clockwork Orange-style retribution, but alas, Nick has been broken by 2003, and the compassionate conservative wears it like a badge. Finally realizing his revolutionary, idealistic ways are obsolete, the newly conformist Nick begins anew, constructing a model "happy" life with Helen—because in such a shitty world, that's all one can really do, isn't it? Sociologist Ravenhill will let you sort that out in your own little, broken head.
Some Explicit Polaroids at the Empire Theater, 200 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, (714) 547-4688. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m. Through March 23. $12-$15.