Review: ‘Hotshot’ not a play for the faint of heart

“Hotshot” offers an inside view of life with crystal methamphetamine, and it looks pretty realistic.

The show, the first production presented by Guerilla Rep, a nonprofit troupe focusing on works by new, local playwrights, is onstage through April 26 at Mama Carlizo’s Voice Factory, a space dedicated to nurturing gay performers.

Not for youngsters or for the socially conservative, “Hotshot” — described by the author as a “tragicomedy” — tells a graphic yet claustrophobic tale of three gay men whose lives are torn apart by their addiction and destructive behavior.

Christian (Greg Gutting), the oldest, is a dealer who owns the mess of an apartment where the action takes place. At the play’s outset, he’s confronted by two visitors: his former lover Marty (Juan Carlos De La Rosa), who we soon find out ended up in jail after Christian betrayed him, and Marty’s friend Booster (Price Adam Troche Jr.), a perky youngster seemingly always up for some fun.

Writer Terrence Beswick, who won an award for the play at San Francisco State University in 2007, apparently based the story on his own life. Aspects of it, particularly the more harrowing moments when the guys are shooting up — or videotaping themselves as they use — are vivid and effective.

Yet for all the drug use and nudity (not live onstage, but video-projected onto a wall when the guys are cruising porn sites online), the show at times is oddly static. The first act often drags, consisting mostly of Marty going off on a too-long tirade, one in which his and Christian’s back story is wearily told, rather than shown.

Director John Caldon and the actors nicely build tension toward the show’s climax, as the characters immerse themselves in the drug experience with little regard to the consequences. The stakes also seem higher, too, with the introduction of the character of Marty’s mother (Edie Burns), whose efforts to save her boy bring home the point that addicts, no matter what their intentions, have an indelible effect on those around him.

Travis Rexroat, the show’s Internet media designer, does a great job incorporating video into the mix, although some audience members at last weekend’s sold-out opening show questioned whether a middle-aged woman such as Marty’s mom would have the Web cam technical expertise she seems to have in this show.

IF YOU GO

Hotshot Presented by Guerilla Rep

Where: Mama Calizo’s Voice Factory, 1519 Mission St., San Francisco

When: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Sundays; closes April 26

Tickets: $10 to $15

Contact: (800) 838-3006 or www.guerrillarep.org

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