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Wild Man

Theatre Review by Matthew Murray

Would you be more likely to assimilate a travelogue of ancient Incan ruins as explained by Indiana Jones or Michael Scott from The Office? If, for you, the messenger is at least as important as the message - especially when you can't verify the contents' veracity - then the incongruities in Wild Man could make your head implode.

Matthew Maguire's 75-minute recitation about the many ways he's unleashed and embraced the animal in himself is undeniably amusing from start to finish, not least because of the vicarious thrills down the throat and chills up the spine it continually offers. But as the show is all talk and very little action, and as the clean-cut and crisply dressed Maguire more resembles a 20-year accounting veteran than a seasoned sampler of the world's more esoteric pleasures and pains, it's most smartly swallowed with several grains of coarse salt.

This isn't to say there's inherently any reason to disbelieve Maguire's stories, mind you. At some point, everyone tests one or another boundary that might not make sense to an outsider. So it's entirely possible, perhaps even believable, that Maguire has ingested psychedelic drugs intended to aid cervix dilation; watched shark, dog, and alligator wrestlers work their magic; dabbled with various Mafiosi; masqueraded as an NBC photographer five days after September 11; been decried a heretic by the Church of Scientology; smuggled drugs out of East Germany; and somehow survived to tell the tales.

But because telling is really all Maguire does - don't expect to see any souvenirs or photos of his excursions - the individual anecdotes are of limited usefulness as anything but curiosities. "I could do that," you may think of him sneaking into the Mormon Tabernacle, or "Never in a million years" about his putting a living snake's head in his mouth. Most of what he says seems positioned and delivered expressly for the purpose of eliciting one of those two reactions, which leaves a bit of a dent once the excitement of discovery wears off.

The show comes alive as more than a sideshow attraction when Maguire uses larger mythical and sociological concepts to tie together the events as waypoints in the human experience. He considers whether war is repulsive or seductive, and whether it's a vital (if regrettable) component of the human spirit. He weaves together threads of coincidences that, after a while, start to display a more visible pattern. Near the end, he posits that whether you're cheating death or, worse, cheating life, you're just exploring different facets of the animal instinct you'd probably prefer to forget is one of your greatest gifts.

It's in these sentiments that Maguire conjures up something archetypal and historical - the sacred masculine, if you will - and more than just the one-dimensional diary reading the show so often threatens to become. In communing with his darker and more mysterious side, Maguire issues a devastating challenge to timid males and out-and-proud metrosexuals alike: You needn't fear anything, because it's all just a warm-up for the real challenge of death. Wild Man is all about one guy's quest to approach that final battle with as much ammunition as possible, but the show is at its best only when Maguire doesn't insist that we trust he has a concealed carry permit.

Wild Man
Through January 26
Wild Project, 195 East 3rd Street, between Avenues A & B
Performances: Mon 8:00 pm, Tues 8:00 pm
Tickets online and current Performance Schedule: OvationTix

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