Nick and Zoe wallows in a young man's angst—and pride in his ability to perform cunnilingus | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

Nick and Zoe wallows in a young man's angst—and pride in his ability to perform cunnilingus 

The two-hander is extremely one-sided.

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Sarah Larson Photography

There's no indication in the program as to precisely when Daniel Talbott started writing this hour-long two-hander, but the smart money is on whenever he discovered cunnulingus.

NYU undergraduate Nick (Andrew Rathgeber), we learn in minute one, first performed oral sex on his babysitter when he was 11. He would like to eat out his Radical Truth professor as well as Zoe (Josephine Longo), his classmate, who's attracted to his damaged spirit, social class grievances, and unabashed jackassery.

Did I mention a guy created this?

Director Adam Webster's production for the Side Project treats every bland provocation as if it were a mike drop and leans in to all the silent, stagnant, Blue Valentine-style black-box acting exercises Talbott's script seems to call for. Between all the simulated sex and moody repartee, Zoe and Nick also find time to be drunk and miserable, hunched over in separate corners for a duration so long that it seems like an onstage dare. In an almost comedic elevation in stakes, audiences are whiplashed between existential prattling to Tennessee Williams-level domestic violence and allusions to pissing on a corpse.

"Every story has two sides," goes the show's tagline. And yet this self-flagellating display wallows almost entirely in young male angst. Rather than provide any real commentary on the sludge of vulgarity and misanthropy Talbott musters, he just asks audiences to join him in rolling around in it. Hard pass.   v

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