ZERO: Dude Glorious Dude

By: Dec. 15, 2008

There's a certain genre of comedy that relies on college-age guys being immature and reinforcing that behavior- Swingers, Wedding Crashers, etc... pretty much any movie with Vince Vaughn in it. Danny and Robert O'Conner have nailed the style with their one-man show Zero, performed by Danny O'Connor. The play has had deservedly successful runs in Texas and Chicago, and now makes its New York debut.
The play follows 3 main characters, all high school friends: Leonard (an actor), Sam (a fratboyish jerk), and Alex (who's just returned from Iraq). The three go out to a bar to celebrate Alex's return, and get very drunk. O'Connor switches effortlessly between the characters, never giving any doubt as to who is speaking- it's an acting tour-de-force, keeping up some extended and hilarious banter. There is also a B-story, featuring three other characters- Gabe and James (one a depressed nerd, and his friend, a ladies man), who go to see a performance art piece by "Malthazar", which consists entirely of pop-cultural references and lines stolen from other poems.  This alternate story is not as interesting as the main story, though provides some nicely meditative monologues.

Act I is hilarious, and then Act II settles down to a little more soul-searching. It's to the writers' credit that the characters still keep their distinct voices even while digging beneath their stereotyped exteriors. Actual reflection upon the lives they're leading is rare is such comedies, but is handled sensitively here, though it seems no one really learns anything, and will presumably continue on in their same patterns after they sober up.  A monologue from Alex about his war experiences is riveting, presumably based on the actual experiences of the late Robert O'Connor. Mocking performance art is as easy as shooting fish in a barrel, but Malthazar's piece is still rather funny, and wisely kept to only one scene (which features the bearish Mr. O'Connor in a tight tank top, for those who enjoy husky men).  The main characters are incidentally homophobic, but it's clear that it's merely a response to the tenuous grasp they all seem to have on their own masculinity.

The play is well-written and well-performed. It's a fine example of a GOOD one-person show, and I'm sure we all know how rare those can be. If you like the man-child style, it's worth checking out.

Photo: A Composite of Danny O'Connor as Alex, Sam, and Leonard