The Heavy Metal rock star, a testosterone-flaunting, guitar thrusting, decibel-amplifying peacock, is a sight ripe for ridicule. Bravado and idiocy in unison can be a ludicrous combo to behold. See: Spinal Tap, which masterfully captures the Metal milieu.
Live Evil: Heavy Metal Playground, offers up similar terrain -- but from the confessional first-person voice of merciless self-mockery. A legend in his own mind, Laurent Martini had plans to conquer the world with his virility and awesomeness. It's the dream, no doubt, of many an adolescent boy growing up in the heyday of Motley Crue. But Laurent, impossibly nerdy despite his French extraction, continues to dream the dream all the way into adulthood.
With a blitz of original, dreadful songs, Martini invites his audience to laugh in his face as he chronicles his pursuit of sex, drugs and hard rock stardom.
The show, at the intimate NOHspace Theater, is a play-length spin-off of the Mortified franchise, a monthly mixture of stand-up comedy and reality-based spoken word performance. At its core, it is a reading series of the personal writings of former adolescents. Recalling their misguided youth, brave adults read verbatim from their high school diaries, poetry and letters, revealing the innermost thoughts and desires to a crowd who is both laughing with them and laughing at them.
Such is the M.O. of Live Evil. The show's biggest problem is that, like the dream of Hard Rock fame and fortune, this play goes on far too long. Mortified is a smorgasbord of cringe-worthy storylines and soloists; each event features a variety of performers, sharing their own special corner of adolescent intensity.
But Live Evil (which is the name of Laurent's never actually formed band) is a funny sketch that has no place being a 90-minute play. To some extent, the monologue is successfully fleshed out with a handful of appealingly silly characters -- most notably the 7-year old Laurent -- a beret-wearing French stereotype, played by Max Hartman. Hartman continues to play this creepy overgrown baby -- with kiddie short pants and lollipop -- until he is a sex-crazed teenager.
Also amusing -- to a point -- is Martini's sober account of his utter lameness. Wearing a beige cardigan and slacks, the staid 32-year-old embodies the incongruity of his inadequate former self and his bitchin' self-image.
The monologue is sprinkled with music -- Live Evil wrote over 100 songs and Laurent sings them (unplugged and solo) (with a guitar he never learned to play) as the lyrics display on the back screen. Some of these include: "F- My Way Across This Great Land," "Back Off Bitch" and other songs a young rocker might think capture the macho misogyny of likeminded groups like AC/DC, Def Leopard and Metallica. One should note that Laurent remained a virgin for way too long.
All of this is fairly funny to a point -- maybe until intermission. But the show is made still longer by Martini's tale of his first love and marriage to the bossy, flagrantly unfaithful Missy (Sara Faith Alterman) who whips her husband into Metal-free submission.
So ultimately, what should be an endearing recollection of a meek boy's attempt to model himself after A-holes, a nice guy's invitation to listen to him make fun of himself, becomes a redemptive story of a cuckolded shmuck who finds his badass self by vanquishing this ball-busting bitch.
Which kinda swerves away from mortification.
Live Evil: Heavy Metal Playground runs through January 29, 2011 at NOHspace theater, 2840 Mariposa Street, (between Florida and Alabama Streets) in San Francisco. For tickets and informationvisit liveevilrocks.com.