Focus Theatre, Dublin until 26 April.
As David Rubinoff's 'Stuck' opens to the strains of Nirvana's 'Rape Me', one wonders whether it’s a ploy to ingratiate itself with its audience or whether it’ll have a deeper significance. Five minutes in and our suspicions lie firmly with the latter.
A one-act, one-performer play, ‘Stuck' is essentially a take on modern urban existence by a gay, pot-addicted, out-of-work Canadian actor called Jack. Informing us that his mind "has a mind of its own", Jack then goes on to recount anecdotes about his quest to find work, but more so about his quest to get high.
We hear of his apartment being robbed, encounters with drug dealers, street beggars, lesbian launderette girls and an Irish hoodlum, as well as an array of other oddball characters. These encounters are interspersed with numerous substance-induced hallucinations.
A climax of sorts arrives when he meets Walter, a well-heeled museum worker. Jack dares to dream that this might be the signal of better times, but his illusion is shattered when Walter brutally rapes him. It is at times like these that 'Stuck' will have audience members shifting uneasily in their seats, with its graphic descriptions of sex and violence, which usually occur simultaneously.
One can have a degree of sympathy for Jack, but it's a sympathy which is somewhat diluted by his opportunism and his failure to do anything positive to drag himself out of his rut. Often, he seems only too willing to remain, as it were, stuck.
As Jack, Sean Power gives a tour de force performance, demonstrating a remarkable range. Power explodes across the stage in manic mayhem when recounting certain anecdotes, and is suitably hushed and sedate during others. All the while, he's convincing. His performance is also noteworthy for its strong, vocal delivery and spirited physical agility.
Funny and unsettling in equal measure, 'Stuck' is set in Canada but its scope is universal. Jack could just as well be on the streets of Dublin as those of Toronto. This is one of the main reasons that this has struck a chord wherever it has played. Another reason, I suspect, is because with a running time of just over 50 minutes, it never outstays its welcome.