photo: Dale May
This downtown self-billed "play with music" centers on the self-absorbed front man in a failed aging rock band who is still holding on to the dream. Almost all his bandmates have to put it to rest already. He's either lashing out, or turning inward with unspoken desperation, or drinking away the pain. As portrayed with jagged anxietous energy by Grant James Varjas (also the playwright and co-songwriter) he's an often compelling character, in some respects not so far from the self-disgust of the protagonist in Talk Radio, but he's in search of a play. The other four characters in this one - including the most prominent, the guitarist ex-boyfriend - aren't written with the same depth and don't raise the dramatic stakes high enough. The passing moments of intervening challenge they provide to the main character's freefall aren't enough to keep the play (which takes place in real time at a band rehearsal) from feeling underdramatized. Whatever the structural weaknesses in his script, Varjas at least keeps things moving and knows when some levity is needed: some of the play's best moments are the band's idle conversations about other musicians. (Memorable quote: "Bowie's an ex-gay. He reneged on us!") And there is the band's music, most of it very good and all of it authentic. Perhaps the best way to enjoy 33 To Nothing is to see it as a concert crossed with a character study that hasn't quite found its groove as a play.
Also blogged by: [Aaron] [David]