BAGS: Obsessions of a Hoardaholic
nytheatre.com review by Ryan Nicholoff
February 25, 2009
The lights dim in the familiar space of Under St. Marks. When they return, standing on stage is a lone man, Lee Michael Buckman. He breaks into a dissertation of definitions of certain psychological maladies, namely the dreaded and ever so prevalent OCD. He makes his audience relate to his own manifestations of the disorder—i.e., collecting bags—and confesses that it doesn't just stop there, that he collects all sorts of stuff. He appears nervous in the first few moments of the play, but after the first few laughs Buckman starts to calm down, and visibly he starts to enjoy what he is doing.
What is very effective in the piece is the way he transitions from subject to subject. We go from a man who speaks of mountains of bags and other "valuables" that clutter his life to how he aspired to become a musician by sharing his collection of t-shirts from bands he was once a part of. Buckman says that these manifestations are learned, and that he learned them from his mother. And there, the seed is planted for what will ultimately be the theme of the show. From the t-shirts he takes us to Miami where he is, quite comically, auditioning to be a male stripper, an occupation he didn't think would be much of a stretch from being a performer. Then, as we hear the very detailed exploits of a male adult dancer, we see a guy who is beginning a battle with drugs.
Buckman effectively takes us on a very interesting journey by letting the audience in on his negative self-talk and rationalizations through different characters. While Buckman is going through his bout with marijuana he employs the use of what I can only assume to be a Mexican man a la Cheech Marin, to tempt him into the depth and the complacently bitter salvation of addiction. The "Mexican" character has a nice and supportive voice, saying that it's okay to smoke and that nobody else would understand and to keep their relationship private. This voice is juxtaposed with rhythmic poetic couplets about the cause and effect of the drug.
We move on to bigger and better things in the realm of drugs and lifestyle. He tells of a time when he was convinced he was a god on LSD and with the use of another character, an Indian Hindu, we see that the addiction and compulsions don't change. They are being transferred from substance to substance, character to character, until he is forced to come face to face with the person he secretly blamed for all of his problems; his mother. Buckman takes us to when his mother was sick and there on her dying day he heard her say "Tenacity." For Buckman, everything makes sense and in the end Buckman delivers a very well-crafted and executed final speech.
Buckman gives us a different brand of hero, the kind in all of us, the kind who is scared to fail, to miss the next moment, to pass up collecting that one extra bag. As I stated earlier, I think Buckman warmed into his performance but by the time it mattered he was locked in the groove and the audience was riding along with him. A fun and touching evening that I think can appeal to anyone if you open your mind and see the actual story that is being told.