It's been about five-and-a-half years since I last saw Danny O'Connor's one-man show Zero, and apparently a few things have changed and tightened up. Although looking back at my first review of it in 2007 (it was for the Star-Telegram blog, available on the website for Zero), my review of the current version would be very close to my initial thoughts back then.
The show, co-written with his late brother Robert and produced in the Studio Theatre at the Addison Theatre Centre, is making a return as the first production in the inaugural season for Octaviar Productions. The group, of which O'Connor is artistic director, will produce five more shows this year, some of them original, plus Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross and the 1891 Frank Wedekind play Spring Awakening, on which the award-winning musical is based.
Since its first performances in North Texas, Danny has performed Zero in New York and on the festival circuit. He's a Dallas native, and has settled here again, with "DFW's theatre scene directly in his crosshairs," it says in the program bio.
O'Connor plays several twentysomething characters, all friends in high school and/or college, and all looking down the barrel at the big three-oh! Some of them refuse to let go of fratty douchiness, which they should be embarrassed about as they get into their mid-30s and 40s. But it's not looking hopeful.
Basically, they don't want to amount to what the show's title indicates, Keep going as they are, and they'll have nothing but a big ol' goose egg to show for years of drinking, treating women badly and general goofing off. One of them has contributed something to society by fighting in the Afghan war. You get the feeling that his future isn't looking as bright as the others, though. Which is to say, less than zero.
O'Connor has infinite charisma, and is incredibly likeable from the get-go, even as his characters ralph into a one-night-stand's toilet, objectify the hot girl from high school, and use words like "vominate" and "snizzap," which is like the equivalent of someone still using the phrase "that's so money." Cue the eye-rolls. The voices and physicality of each of the characters are nicely differentiated, as he if knows them all too well from his own life.
It's still too long, and my least favorite scene is still the riff on a performance artist as a Dead Can Dance soundtrack plays. It's meant to be a cliché, both the performance and the guys' reaction to it. I get the point, though. They laugh at him, but at least this guy has a passion and is doing something about it.
It's a funhouse mirror-reflection of O'Connor himself, who is obviously someone who has to create art and be onstage. It's as vital as breathing.
Here's to what he and Octaviar Productions have planned for the future as they become part of the local theater community.
◊ Here'a video teaser for Zero, with a particularly hard scene to watch for men. Warning: Adult humor.