A quarter-life crisis has descended upon an upscale Dallas hotel room where Mike (Derek Garza) and Seth (Michael Manocchio), friends since childhood, find themselves facing down their 30s and pondering the awful sensation that they're stuck on "the conveyor belt of life."
It is the eve of Mike's wedding. He's not sure he wants to go through with it. As played by Garza, Mike is the thinking-man's bro, staring into the proverbial void, beer in hand. It is a deft performance — finding that rare space between meathead and deep-thinker — as Mike drinks steadily and reveals his conflicted feelings about the marriage in a series of conversations that alternate between go-to-hell intensity, tart one-liners and amused "remember whens."
Seth, who is the more pensive and observant of the two, is battling his own relationship problems. He is on the outs with his boyfriend, who is a louse anyway. Convinced of his permanent sad bachelor status (Manocchio's prickly vulnerability is palpable) he looks at his buddy, on the verge of tying the knot in the full bloom of hetero tradition, and can't muster much sympathy: "My life is falling apart and you're moping around like you're getting circumcised tomorrow."
Doubt, as a narrative device, is a tricky thing. Make it too explicit and your characters suddenly seem less complex than they potentially are. "I know how good we have it," Mike says of the moneyed world he and Seth move through, "and we're still miserable." That's an observation with some meat on its bones, but you can't help but wish for a more sidewinding approach. Once you spell it out, the dialogue starts to sound trite.
And yet I like what The Side Project is doing here. You almost never see this kind of genuine, deeply-felt connection between two men — one straight, one gay — in pop culture and Talbott doesn't exoticize it or make either guy the other's sidekick. What really works in director Adam Webster's production is the baseline examination of male friendship, and you believe it because of the easy, lived-in rhythms between Garza and Manocchio.
Through Aug. 24 at The Side Project, 1439 W. Jarvis Ave.; tickets are $20 at 773-340-0140 or thesideproject.net