None of that is a problem for the instantly likeable actor Danny O’Connor in Zero (co-written with his late brother Robert). I missed this show when it dropped into the Addison Theatre Centre’s studio space last year, but luckily O’Connor brought it back (the Addison run ends tonight, but it picks back up in Plano in a few weeks).
O’Connor plays a number of young men who are trying to find their way after college and, for one, a tour of duty in the Iraq war. Some of them have their own dedicated monologues, while other scenes have O'Connor effortlessly shifting between characters and voices.
If some of it is hard to watch or listen to (such as the excessive shots of Jagermeister, hangover toilet-clutching, a segment about how doctors check males for gonorrhea and the sometimes un-PC language), then give O’Connor credit for entertaining and offering self-reflection, all the while making us uncomfortable.
In my book, those are some important attributes of good theater.
Zero isn’t perfect (the scene that riffs on performance art is funny, but cliched), and it could stand trimming, but it is a clever look at a time in life many of us have experienced -- struggling to grow up.
Factor in O’Connor’s funny, inspired performance, and you’ve got something that adds up to much more than 0.
-- Mark Lowry
Reviews below are from our 2006 runs:
Put your cash instead on Danny O'Connor. Instead of waiting for someone to grant him a big break in showbiz, the Dallas native and recent graduate of Boston's artsy Emerson College has created one of his own by co-writing (with brother Robert), producing and staging a whiz-bang one-man comedy. Zero, starring O'Connor as himself and a few friends, wound up a good run at the Addison Theatre Centre and moves for one more weekend of performances to the Dallas Hub Theatre in Deep Ellum.
In a dozen nicely polished, sometimes poignant and often devilishly witty scenes, O'Connor takes us through a day and night in the life of an unemployed actor (that would be he) wallowing in self-pity. He wakes up hung-over in a strange bedroom (we find out later with whom he canoodled), hangs out with some old high school buddies and drunk-dials the dreamgirl who used to taunt him as "Fatty" when he weighed a C-note more.
There's a little of Vince Vaughn's charming leer in lines such as "You little bag of carrots, I could eat you up" and "I could MySpace that all afternoon." And a touch of the poet comes through when an Iraq war veteran describes combat experience as "days that pass like freight cars." He even works in some interpretive dance in a bit about a pretentious performance artist (as if there's any other kind) named Malthazar.
O'Connor, who resembles a young Jim Belushi, has a sharp ear for profane man-speak. His characters razz each other as "ass cheese" and vulgarly categorize women as "poon" and worse. The actor plays all three pals in a sequence involving the slamming of many Jagermeister shots and a dizzying round-robin bar conversation that caroms from girl-ogling to the war to the ghastly details of gonorrhea testing. All he has to do is shift his shoulders and tilt his head a little and we know which of the guys is talking. He's good at this acting thing--better than some Equity thesps we've seen lately.
If Zero describes O'Connor's sagging self-esteem onstage, he may need to check his math. This guy's numbers are only going up.
Elaine Liner, Dallas Observer Theatre Critic
“Zero” risks being an insufferable vanity project. The one-man show — performed, co-written and staged by Danny O’Connor — is about aimless losers in their early 20s who have all chosen slightly different paths, none with what you might call traditional solid professional-career arcs. O’Connor’s the right age for all of them, and initially the idea that he could parse these characters, making them unique and interesting without oozing either pity or contempt for them, seems like a tall order.
And then he takes the stage, walking silently through a morning-after hangover: puking up his guts, sniffing his pits, chugging a Dasani just to open his capillaries sufficiently so that he doesn’t trip over the furniture in an unfamiliar bedroom. The scene might come across as cliched or even overwrought, but it is surprisingly specific: The action looks lived-in without seeming artificial, rehearsed or (worst of all) self-indulgent.
And then the dialogue starts, first in the form of a phone call between two friends: One a macho asshole, the other our wasted, schlubby antihero. With just slight alterations in posture and voice, O’Connor seamlessly becomes two men, speaking in a lexicon of shorthanded epigrams that only pals joined together by the sticky glue of shared keggers, tentative circle-jerks and playful locker-room taunts can fully understand. The writing is fresh and lively, the delivery natural and convincing.
Then another character emerges. Then another. In all, O’Connor plays six zeroes (itself some pointless, living binary code); and while each one threatens to overload him, to prove his reach beyond his grasp, O’Connor maintains control. Each person is precise and real, and their words spill out of his lips like carefully observed tone poems — rhythms of speech, overlong karoake performances, reactions to social gaffes are hilariously captured by O’Connor, himself a likeable, agreeable presence. Even in the second act, which gets increasingly preachy and conventional — gawd, do we really need a hopeful ending where the protagonist LEARNS something? -- O’Connor is a delight, hysterically navigating the choppy waters of youth with more smarts than most actual twentysomethings.
There are plenty of “edgy” plays that swap shock and grossness for insight and verisimilitude; “Zero” is not one of them. This is refreshing and inventive theater, and a promising introduction to a gifted craftsman bursting with potential.
Arnold Wayne Jones, Dallas Voice theatre critic
In his year-end review of plays of 2006, Mr. Jones honored "Zero" by placing it in his "Top Ten Plays of 2006"! In this article he said:
"Playwright and star Danny O’Connor’s one-man show was a scorchingly funny and well-conceived ditty about how men relate to one another. It was astonishingly wise and free of Gen Y cliches."
With the sub-title of “Score Big… Gain Nothing,” all the men in Dallas should take notice. Zero, starring Danny O’Connor and written by Danny and his brother, Robert O’Connor, is a comical, insightful, and at times vulgar exploration of the many conflicts a man goes through at the brink of leaving his youth.
The play premiered last week on April 21st at the Dallas Hub Theater www.dallashubtheater.org, and it will run again this coming from April 27th through the 29th at the Addison Studio Theatre. Various titles of acts include “Dude, where the hell am I?,” “Malthazar,” and “He means the Lieutenant. LT means Lieutenant.” virtually guaranteeing a revealing look inside the mind of the typical 20-something male.
Entering into the adulthood he both fears, wants, worries about, and yet has always hoped for, Act 1 opens with the star, waking up in the bed of……. Well, I don’t want to ruin the plot. Yet, at what point is he compelled to let go of who he was in high school and stop making getting drunk and getting action his number one priority?
With characters as varied as the caste system of a typical American high school, Zero is an in-depth look at the potential zero-sum game of life. So, attention slow to mature boys everywhere, it’s Danny’s pleasure to embody your 15 minutes of fame. But, enjoy ‘em quickly; the clock is ticking….. www.zerotheplay.com
The play premiered last week on April 21st at the Dallas Hub Theater www.dallashubtheater.org, and it will run again this coming week from April 27th through the 29th at the Addison Studio Theatre.
Wendi R W McGowan, Re:D (Regarding Dallas) Magazine Theatre Critic