Grant James Varjas’s 33 to Nothing begins with a warning: This is
a show about a rock band’s real-time rehearsal, and it gets very loud in A
Red Orchid’s tight space. The production kicks off with an explosion of
sound as the musicians immediately get to work before putting each other
through intense emotional labor. Complimentary earplugs are provided on
each of the seats.

Affectionately described by lead singer Gray (a belligerent, despondent
Aaron Holland) as “the gay Fleetwood Mac,” this group is falling apart as
personal conflicts and dwindling audience numbers put its future in
question. Tyrone Phillips’s direction captures how years of decaying
friendships and bubbling resentments weigh down these bandmates. This comes
through most heavily in the relationship between Gray and Bri (Steve
Haggard, projecting gentle pity), exes whose flame hasn’t been fully
extinguished. Amanda Raquel Martinez and Annie Prichard are convincing
voices of reason trying to make their escape with minimal heartbreak, and
Jeff Kurysz is a refreshing source of positivity as the band’s kindhearted,
genderfluid drummer.

This play with music features eight original songs written by Varjas with
exuberant music direction by John Cicora, and they give the show a concert
feel that elevates an otherwise traditional drama about artists in their
30s struggling to hold on to their dreams. It isn’t a groundbreaking plot,
but this team explores it with a blend of subtlety and verve that
highlights the complexity of the characters’ relationships with each other
and their music.   v