July 27, 2007
NYC Theatre Review
Written by FRANK SCHECK
As much rock concert as play, "33 to Nothing" depicts the death throes of a band. Written by Grant James Varjas - who also plays the band's songwriter and artistic leader - it captures the pathos of baby boomers who are getting too old to hold on to their rock-stardom dreams.
As we watch the band rehearse, it soon becomes clear that personal tensions are ripping them apart. Gray (Varjas), who writes their material, is drinking heavily, in part because of a breakup with lead guitarist Bri (Preston Clark) that's inspired his recent songs.
The group's affable if dim drummer, Barry (Ken Forman), fields endless phone calls from his demanding girlfriend. And married guitarist Tyler (John Good) and bassist Alex (Amanda Gruss) announce they're leaving the band and have bought a house in Jersey.
Interspersed among the emotional confrontations are songs that show off Varjas' considerable talent for pop hooks and introspective lyrics. They're good enough, in fact, to make the fictional band's lack of success all the more poignant.
While the backstage drama is hardly original, the playwright has a good ear for comic banter, evidenced by a funny argument over whether gays make the best frontmen, and knowing allusions to bands ranging from Stryper to Coldplay.
As is often the case, "33 to Nothing" - directed by Randal Myler ("Hank Williams: Lost Highway," "Love, Janis") after a well-received run off-off-Broadway - has a better score than script, and the performers' acting and musical talents vary quite a bit.
But by the end of the evening, when the band triumphantly delivers its final number, you wish it could survive just a little bit longer.