Nickel and Dimed works up minimum rage; Zero does a number on manhood

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.

Low-paid actors depict low-paid service employees in Nickel and Dimed. You'd think it would be more persuasive.
Low-paid actors depict low-paid service employees in Nickel and Dimed. You'd think it would be more persuasive.


:Nickel and Dimed continues through May 20 at Kitchen Dog Theater at the MAC, 214 -953-1055.

Zero continues through May 6 at the Addison Theatre Centre's Black Box, 972-245-6218.

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.

Months ago I zeroed out on Labyrinth Theatre after sitting through their dismally amateurish attempt at the musical Working. But since their latest is a new script called Second Chance, I thought I should give them one.

The play asks this question: Would you willingly sacrifice your life to save a loved one? A grieving sportswriter (Kevin Ash) must decide just that when time is reversed to a few weeks before the moment his surgeon-wife (Kelly Rypkema) will be killed in a car crash.

A train wreck would be more appropriate in this production. As my ears bled from listening to playwright Tony Sportiello's mawkish dialogue, as I groped for sharp objects to jam into my eye sockets to avoid watching Ash (Labyrinth founder and an Equity member) pull another goofy face in lieu of real acting, I decided I wasn't willing to sacrifice another hour of my life to chance more of the same dreary dreck in the second act. I won't be wandering back to Labyrinth until they do one called We Promise This Show Does Not Stink.

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