Gonzo: A Brutal Chrysalis

An interesting if reckless look at a lesser-seen side of Hunter S. Thompson

If you're looking for the fun-loving and hilariously drug-addled Hunter S. Thompson portrayed on-screen by Johnny Depp and Bill Murray, you'll be surprised and uncomfortably mystified by this one-man performance about the founder of gonzo journalism. On a marvelously trashy stage depicting Thompson's Woody Creek, Colo., bunker — littered with typewriters, guns, and liquor — an actor and writer credited only as B. Duke (I suppose a tribute to Thompson's pseudonym Raoul Duke) spends two hours spitting out angry, bile-filled rants about the death of the American Dream. Instead of rehashing Thompson's famous misadventures with the Hell's Angels or the hallucinogenic paranoia detailed in his classic novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, B. Duke — and producer and director C. Duke (that's right) — focus on Thompson's radical, power-to-the-freaks politics. There's no letup (or variance) in the machine-gun outbursts about Nixon, mass media, “freak power,” and Thompson's inspired run for sheriff of Aspen. Gonzo is an interesting look at a lesser-seen side of the counter-culture icon, but the performance feels like a reckless, all-out verbal assault. The theater's concession stand sells cheap whiskey and balloons filled with nitrous oxide, and the gunshots onstage feel dangerous and deafening. But perhaps, Hollywood sheen aside, this show is a truer look at the man who reinvented modern alternative journalism. — Nathaniel Eaton

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