Irvine Welsh wrote a prolific novel about heroin addiction called “Trainspotting.” It became a successful stageplay and a cult movie starring Ewan McGregor. And now, the story has come to Chicago by way of Missouri.
Jeffrey Brunstein, Laura St. James, Tom Mullen and Tom Chiola, in association with Keaton Wooden and Books & Lyrics Theatricals LLC, present TRAINSPOTTING USA. Mark Renton is a heroin addict. He has decided to ‘get clean.’ He’s prepared his Missouri home for detox. Among the supplies, Mark has gallons of Gatorade, pile of snacks, a tube of Orajel, bottles of Pepto Bismal and three large buckets of ammonia. The buckets are for his piss, poop and barf. Mark is prepared for his cleanse. Now, he only needs one last hit before he gives it up completely. This is how the play starts, as an education in rehabilitation. It’s startling and mind-boggling. And from there, it just plunges us into the hard core dangers of ‘chasing the dragon.’ TRAINSPOTTING USA ‘cooks up‘ intoxicatingly powerful highs and lows of addiction.
This show is like that commercial where a pan smashes an egg to symbolize being on drugs. Except instead of the cracking an egg analogy, it’s more like dropping an anvil on a baby illustration. TRAINSPOTTING USA is not subtle or gentle. The scenes are gritty and intense. I continually cringed, looked away and tried not to vomit. Director Tom Mullen doesn’t lull us into a hazy ‘baked’ reality. He continually jabs a needle into our arms among other things. Ouch, this is definitely going to leave a mark!
Mullen effectively paces it on a revolving stage with minimalistic wooden structures. The seamless scene transitions keep the action ever-moving and the partying non-stop. Under the direction of Mullen, the talented cast pull us into their ‘stoned‘ escapes. In the lead, Shane Kenyon (Mark) plays it perfectly amicable. We immediately like Kenyon and so his struggle becomes a shared path of destruction. Kenyon makes it personal. His cocky confidence is engaging. And his honest disclosure is heartbreaking. The entire ensemble look authentically and impressively drugged-up and wasted. A couple additional standouts were Jenny Lamb (Allison and Others) and Jay Cullen (Tommy). For the longest time, I thought there were two women playing the female parts. Lamb, not only delivers distinct, multiple personas, she morphs into them with exceptional speed and grace. A tragically vulnerable Cullen implodes right on stage in a gasp-worthy scene. Wow!
TRAINSPOTTING USA is not light entertainment. It’s a just-say-no documentary that should scare anyone straight. TRAINSPOTTING USA is disconcertingly real and unforgettable!
Running Time: Ninety minutes with no intermission.
At Theatre Wit, 1229 W. Belmont
Based on the novel “Trainspotting” by Irvine Welsh
Adapted to stage by Irvine Welsh, Harry Gibson and Tom Mullen
Directed by Tom Mullen
Thursdays and Fridays at 8pm
Saturdays at 7pm and 9:30pm
Sundays at 5pm
Thru December 2nd
Buy Tickets at www.theatrewit.org
Production photograph courtesy of Cameron Johnson.