Trainspotting is sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll. But mainly drugs.

Craig Hostetler stars as a heroin addict with a storyteller’s soul.

Craig Hostetler stars as a heroin addict with a storyteller’s soul.

One of the most indelible images from Danny Boyle's film version of Trainspotting is when a heroin addict wakes up in a strange bed, covered in shit.

The guy is understandably weirded out, especially as he realizes he is in the comfy home of his new girlfriend. He packs up the bedding and tries to slink out of the house, promising to wash it and bring it back.

Her mom won't think of it and gets into a tug of war with him over the vile package. She pulls it free, and the horrible mess scatters all over the kitchen.

Trainspotting's stage version opens with this moment. Shadow Horse Theatre's production gets it mostly right, offering an unflinching — and occasionally funny — ride.

The play takes us to Edinburgh. It centers on working-class kids engaging in a ritual of sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll. But it's the drugs that carry the day. Mark, Ewan McGregor's character in the movie, and several of his mates are heroin addicts, shooting up to add color to their lives.

They reside in the depressed underbelly of the city, drifting from job to job, lover to lover, and moment to moment.

Mark has the soul of a storyteller and a clear-eyed sense that he is wasting his life. Athletic Tommy will indulge in anything except for smack, until his girlfriend leaves him. Begbie is impossible to understand (they use supertitles when he speaks) and has a mean streak a mile wide.

There are important events: A baby dies in a heroin house. Mark's brother, a soldier, is killed by the IRA. Tommy gets AIDS from a dirty needle. There isn't a traditional plot. Think of the scenes as snapshots.

As Mark, Craig Hostetler keeps us focused through midway of the second act. Hostetler doesn't make the character nearly as interesting when he's clean.

That isn't a problem for Josef Buchel, who takes us through Tommy's fall from bright, energized lad to someone who no longer wants to live.

Whatever you do, don't go into this Trainspotting expecting to see Boyle's movie on stage. There's no Iggy Pop. No Spud and very little Sick Boy. No oddly hewed-in heist.

Instead, this Trainspotting is full of sharply defined characters, often disgusting humor, and scenes so intimate that we feel as though we are just one needle away from joining this crew in the shooting gallery.


Phoenix Theatre
2605 Hennepin Ave. S., Minneapolis
Through Feb. 13; 800-838-3006