The side project theatre company closes its fourteenth season with Mike and Seth, the story of two childhood friends who share a hotel room the night before one of them gets married. This thought-provoking contemporary work is not to be missed.
The program for Mike and Seth describes the side project’s space as “hyper-intimate,” and the word’s meaning became clear as soon as I entered the room. With seating for perhaps twenty people and a stage the size of a college dorm room, the space for Mike and Seth is definitely small, and the effect of it is magical. Even from the second row, I felt as though I too had checked in to the Ritz-Carlton in Dallas. The space definitely drew the audience into the time and place of the story, and the experience of the night became as personal for the audience as it was for Mike and Seth.
The script of Mike and Seth played like a well-made mix CD, with notes of crudeness, humor, nostalgia, existentialism, anger, and redemption ebbing and flowing in perfect time. Daniel Talbott’s script tackles issues ranging from privilege and social norms to true love and the nature of friendship, yet nothing seems out of place in dialogue that rings with absolute authenticity. Director Adam Webster does not fear pauses or moments of silent action, and these, rather than slowing down or detracting from the production, make it feel even truer as each character waits for the perfect moment to speak.
The show begins with Mike, played by Derek Garza, watching a porno, with full sound effects by designer Stephen Gawrit making for an awkwardly hilarious opening. Shortly afterward, Seth, played by Michael Manocchio, enters, and the difference between the two characters is immediately obvious. Mike is an easy-going, typically masculine dreamer, while Seth is down-to-earth, practical, and openly gay. Still, the deep connection and history between them is obvious, with Garza and Manocchio's acting enhancing lines like “If you were a girl, I would have asked you to the prom.” Friendship of this kind is difficult to capture in words and action, but Mike and Seth was so true to life that I was constantly reminded of similar conversations I’ve had with my own best friend.
The conflict begins when Mike reveals to Seth that he isn’t sure he loves his bride-to-be. The ensuing progression of conversations forces them to deal with their lives as individuals and as friends. Both Garza and Manocchio delivered moving performances, and the excellence of their acting had me engaged throughout. So much is packed into the 75-minute performance that the play feels complete despite its brief length, and I left the theatre deep in thought about the ideas the show presented me with.
Mike and Seth is gem of a production. Buy your tickets today to enjoy this slice of life at the side project.
Times: Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 pm, Sundays at 3 pm.
Tickets: $20 General Admission; $15 Senior/Student; $10 Rogers Park Rush (all unsold tickets at the door with 60626 or 60645 ID)
Group discounts available. Call 773-340-0140 for information/reservations.