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Methtacular!

Steven Strafford's solo show about his battles with sex addiction and crystal meth is moderately compelling.

By New York City
Steven Strafford in Methtacular!
(© Kevin Thomas Garcia)
Steven Strafford in Methtacular!
(© Kevin Thomas Garcia)
Steven Strafford's one-man show, Methtacular!, at The Playroom Theatre, charts the actor's downward spiral into methamphetamine and sex addiction with show tunes spliced in-between and game show interludes. While the songs are unfortunately lackluster, these interludes provide a nice contrast to Strafford's engaging if well-worn anecdotes of a man spiraling out of control.

Early in the show, Strafford tells us that "Tuesday plus Meth equals Friday" and that pithy line encapsulates his twenties, spent in Chicago after graduating college in his native New Jersey. When he arrives, he's a 22-year-old inexperienced gay man, insecure about his inexperience and longing to change that. He begins calling a gay phone sex line, which leads to meeting a guy and "tina," which he finds out is another name for crystal meth.

The sex, he tells us, was painful and unfulfilling but the meth was love at first sight. "Imagine in one sniff, every physical, sexual, and emotional insecurity you have ever had disappears," he says as he launches into his search for more. This leads him to bathhouses and into the arms of abusive men like Tony, who beats Strafford one night during a GHB high on a trip to New Orleans.

There's a raw honesty to the show that's admirable, but we don't get enough of a sense of characters like Tony to feel completely immersed in this world. Strafford only tells us about these people; he never becomes them. Moreover, with the exception of his mother (who appears via home video), we never hear other people speak.

The songs, which are written by Strafford, arranger John McDaniel and others, are the weakest part of the show. Not only are they forgettable, but most problematic, they fail to add any extra insight into Strafford's state of mind or flesh out any of the peripheral characters.

Undoubtedly, Strafford is a somewhat compelling storyteller. Yet, as heartfelt as his story is, if Strafford could show us what methamphetamine addiction looks like instead of simply telling us about it, the show would feel less like a motivational speech and more like a piece of necessary theater.


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