Wild Man @ The Wild Project, New York

written and performed by
Matthew MaguireMatthew Maguire is like that amusing uncle at a party, with a story for every occasion. Weve all seen that uncle and laughed the first, second, and third time at his stories. And people come up to him and say, you should turn these into an act (if your friends are comics) or a play (if your friends are actors). Matthew Maguire has done just that. He has strung together a series of anecdotes, stories and ruminations about life, hung them onto an artificial bildungsroman-style plot trajectory, and presented it as a play. The result is Wild Man, a mildly diverting and often entertaining look back at Mr. Maguires life via his cocktail stories.

Wild Man never transcends its own limitations. Instead of shooting for the moon and missing, it shoots for Staten Island and succeeds! But youre still in Staten Island.
Matthew Maguire is a quiet, easygoing gentleman who provides a wry touch to a story. He rarely displays anger, and when he does (as in a piece on Northern Ireland) it is bottled up or viewed from a remove. He was angry, he was insulted, but he is well over it. This makes for a pleasant but unprovocative evening. The audience is taken on a trip, but it is not a vicarious trip. The play doesnt move you to feel the stories, but rather confines one to hearing them. And instead of feeling awe or excitement, what’s felt is time ticking past.

The point of the play seems to be release your inner “wild man,” take chances, and push yourself to the limits get the hairs on the back of your neck to stand up. But in explaining so-called wild men, Mr. Maguire too often frames them in terms of people he was around and what they did. We get his second-hand view and are then told to experience our moments ourselves. This moral has the resonance of the non-descript man in The Graduate telling Dustin Hoffman, Plastics!

All in all, Wild Man isnt a bad or uncomfortable evening. It’s a fine way to spend a little over an hour if you are in the Lower East Side after a good dinner and a few drinks. But it isnt much of a theater piece.

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