Jayson McDonald brings William S. Burroughs, one of the most prolific writers of “The Beat Generation”, to life in his one-man show, Underbelly. The audience follows Burroughs as he recounts an autobiographical tale of poetry through the eyes of a hallucination.
Should you see it?
There is no doubt left in my mind that Burroughs was able to live a life that was constantly full of adventures; he was a socialite at birth, a societal outcast growing up and a misunderstood junkie artist in his adult years. McDonald takes the time to delve deep into Burroughs’ work and expose pieces of his distorted reality with a modern audience.
Jayson McDonald is amazing. His writing style truly captured the essence of Burroughs and brought it to life. McDonald’s delivery is flawless and it’s extremely captivating from the moment he steps on stage until the moment he walks off. McDonald doesn’t seem to have a problem filling an empty stage by himself. Every movement he makes is as deliberate as every word that he speaks. Underbelly is as much an interpretive dance performance as it is theatrical production.
Underbelly is divided nicely into little vignettes that capture moments of Burroughs at various stages in his life. It’s ironic to note that for a man who was quite abusive towards his own body, he lived quite a long life while those around him that he cared for all died quite young, most often in relation to his own actions.
Underbelly is quite crass at times. However, when examining the work being performed, McDonald uses the crass and the crude to reflect the crassness of society and its construction of politics, religion and the American Dream. The profane moments are quite often peppered with moments of extreme craft and wit. McDonald’s version of Burroughs is always questioning what is a hallucination, what is a vision and what is reality, and it’s through this bizzaro world that we follow his tale.
As the audience settles into the theatre, the works of Burroughs can be heard over a grunge-filled musical soundtrack. Although I was taken aback at first, this immediately set the tone for the rest of Underbelly.
The only issue I have with this production is that it was too short. It claims a 75 minute run time, when in reality our show clocked in at 61 minutes. When the show ended, an hour just wasn’t enough. Underbelly was brilliantly crafted and darkly hilarious. I only hope everyone else enjoys the ride as much as I did.
But that’s only my opinion and I’d love to hear what you think. Did you enjoy Underbelly as much as I did? Let me know in the comments below.