Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Review: Book-it's Raw Look at Opioid Addiction in AMERICAN JUNKIE

Review: Book-it's Raw Look at Opioid Addiction in AMERICAN JUNKIE
Ian Bond in American Junkie at
Book-It Repertory Theatre.
Photo credit: Studio 19 Photography

With any luck most of us will bypass any connection to opioid or heroin addiction. I know going into Book-It Repertory Theatre's current production of Tom Hansen's "American Junkie", I knew nothing of that world except what you might catch on TV. But what this gritty memoir and gripping performances do is give a much more intense and visceral look into this world while still mixing in humor and hope making this a fascinating ride.

The story looks at author Hansen's (played by Ian Bond) journey during the grunge era in Seattle as he dives into drug binge after drug binge, sometimes getting clean but then going right back to chasing that high while also selling it to others until the high takes him over so viciously that he can't even move from his bed from the many sores and wounds resulting from his injections sites. This harrowing tale, as adapted by Jane Jones and Kevin McKeon and directed by Jones brilliantly weaves through his history starting you off at two different points in time, one very low and one higher and full of hope; switching back and forth until we come full circle at the end.

This is not a show you can really say you enjoyed but you can definitely say you appreciate as the journey is rough and often times quite graphic. But it's to the credit of Jones and the amazing ensemble and crew that they can pull it off so gracefully. The minimalist set from Catherine Cornell will fool you as there are so many twists and turns it can take becoming so many different locales with ease especially when coupled with Tristan Roberson's fantastic lighting design. Both elements set the moods so well that you actually think you're right there with Hansen in the drug den or on the street or in the hospital. And the staging from Jones keeps the switches from time to time, location to location so seamless and diverse that it never becomes static.

The ensemble of Jesica Avellone, Hazel Rose Gibson, Tim Gouran, Brian Gunter, and Marco Adiak Voli are incredibly tight and a well-oiled machine as they play multiple characters in Hansen's life. Switching from family to doctors to fellow addicts with the switch of a coat or hat, each persona is so individual and distinct. But it's Bond they all revolve around as he has to carry the show and carry it he does even though he plays it off at times that he can't even carry himself. His transformations within the piece are stunning as we watch his health wax and wane as we go back and forth in his timeline and with each shift you're never confused as to which stage he might be in. And his grasp on the character is incredibly raw and vulnerable making this an amazing performance that begs to be seen.

This made it onto my Top Ten shows I was excited to see this season and it did not disappoint. And so, with my three-letter rating system, I give Book-It Repertory Theatre's production of "American Junkie" a "you may leave uncomfortable, but you'll leave enlightened" YAY. This is a world I personally knew nothing about and after seeing this, I'm glad for the path I landed on.

"American Junkie" from Book-It Repertory Theatre performs at the Center Theatre through March 10th. For tickets or information contact the Book-It box office at 206-216-0833 or visit them online at www.book-it.org.



SIX, BEETLEJUICE, and More Set For Broadway at The Paramount 2023-24 Season Photo
Premera Blue Cross Broadway at The Paramount has announced its 2023/2024 season of Broadway shows at The Paramount Theatre!  The season brings extraordinary entertainment with a cache of highly anticipated touring productions direct from Broadway in addition to some returning crowd-pleasing favorites.

Seattle Theatre Group Presents Manual Cinemas Shadow Puppet And Cinematic Storytelling Wit Photo
Seattle Theatre Group presents Manual Cinema's “Frankenstein” for one night only at the Moore Theatre on Tuesday, March 7, 2023, at 7:30 PM.

Review: AINT TOO PROUD at Paramount Theater Photo
The road to fame is long and hard. AIN’T TOO PROUD guides you through the journey of The Temptations as they reach for the stars. The music is soulful, and the moves are sublime. The journey itself is full of potholes and obstacles, and the show hits a few bumps along the way. The show is a fun night of entertainment but missed some key opportunities to be so much more.

Seattle Center Expands Role To Include Managing Waterfront Park Operations In Partnership  Photo
The City of Seattle has announced that the Seattle Center Department will expand services to provide operations, maintenance, and public safety for Waterfront Park. 


From This Author - Jay Irwin

         Born and raised in Seattle, WA, Jay has been a theater geek for years.  He attends as many shows as he can around the country and loves taking in new exciting... (read more about this author)


Review: BECOMING OTHELLO: A BLACK GIRL'S JOURNEY at Seattle Shakespeare CompanyReview: BECOMING OTHELLO: A BLACK GIRL'S JOURNEY at Seattle Shakespeare Company
January 7, 2023

Dear Readers, you know I find one person shows to be problematic. Often, they get into maudlin territories and end up being someone else’s therapy on stage. So, I was dubious when Seattle Shakespeare Company announced Debra Ann Byrd’s one woman show “Becoming Othello: A Black Girl’s Journey” to start off their 2023. As Byrd stepped onto stage at the Center Theatre, I took it as a good sign that we didn’t get the cliché, “Oh, I didn’t see you there” as if we’d intruded on her private moments. Instead, we got not words but song and movement offering up prayers to her ancestors who got her to where she is today. And then what followed was 90 minutes of a raw, well-paced, well-constructed look into this amazing woman who broke down the barriers erected in front of her by centuries of selfish oppression. Also, what followed was a hell of a way to start off 2023.

SEATTLE CRITIC'S CHOICE AWARDS (JAY'S PICKS) 2022SEATTLE CRITIC'S CHOICE AWARDS (JAY'S PICKS) 2022
January 6, 2023

Dear Readers, I don’t need to tell you, it’s been a crazy year. Many theaters just coming back to life or ramping up again post pandemic. But even with all the chaos, Seattle still comes up with some amazing shows from theaters large and small. Here’s a list of my personal picks for outstanding shows and performers from the past year, 2022.

Review: MOULIN ROUGE! THE MUSICAL at The Paramount TheatreReview: MOULIN ROUGE! THE MUSICAL at The Paramount Theatre
December 17, 2022

More. That, Dear Readers, is the watchword the creators of the stage adaption of the 2001 Baz Luhrmann film, “Moulin Rouge!”, subscribed to. They threw in more sparkle wherever they could in this stage musical, currently playing at the Paramount. Unfortunately, they also threw in more songs, more lights, and certainly more bass in this spectacle that loses the heart and charm of the original in favor of assaulting the audience’s senses.

Review: THE FLIGHT BEFORE XMAS from Macha Theatre WorksReview: THE FLIGHT BEFORE XMAS from Macha Theatre Works
December 4, 2022

Dear Readers, we all know that travelling during the holidays can be a nightmare. Delayed flights, family drama, not to mention dealing with others attempting their own travels. But as frustrating as it can be, what’s not frustrating is the delightful cast of characters created by Maggie Lee in her play, “The Flight Before Xmas”. A wonderful and heartfelt diversion from the usual holiday fare currently playing at West of Lenin from Macha Theatre Works.

Review: MR. DICKENS AND HIS CAROL at The Seattle RepReview: MR. DICKENS AND HIS CAROL at The Seattle Rep
December 1, 2022

Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” is an enduring classic. We all know this. It’s never been out of publication since its first publishing in 1843. It has spawned numerous movie, TV, and stage adaptations from the serious to the Muppets. Now the Seattle Rep has come along with a World Premiere of Samantha Silva’s “Mr. Dickens and His Carol”, based on her book of the same name. Taking a supposed look at the creation of this classic tale, this historical fiction is heavy on the fiction and light on the history, cutting a wide swath with its poetic license about the author and turning him into a pompous buffoon in a story and a production in desperate need of an editor.