Chicago Theatre Review
You Gotta Have Friends
Mike and Seth – Side Project
Bette Midler sang about them, NBC aired a popular, long-running sitcom with that title and a wise person once said that “a friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you, even when you’ve forgotten the words.” In Daniel Talbott’s new play, having its Midwest premier in Chicago this summer, the limits of friendship become a melody tested during one long night in a Texas hotel room.
Two longtime friends, self-proclaimed entitled Millennials, meet in an upscale Texas hotel room the night before Mike’s wedding. Mike (handsome Derek Garza), who’s been busy all night packing away a six-pack of cold beer, is experiencing all manner of fear and doubts about marrying his young fiancee, the lady he loves and adores. He’s afraid of what marriage will mean. Mike is panicking about becoming one of those married couples who grow callous about the world around them, simply wallowing in their comfortable existence and taking their good fortune for granted. He wants adventure, excitement, new experiences. He wants to make a difference and leave some kind of legacy after he’s gone from this world. Mike guzzles beer and shouts and rages at life while his best friend listens and tries to calm him.
Seth (generous actor Michael Manocchio), Mike’s gay, longtime buddy and Best Man, is undergoing his own personal dilemma. His boyfriend, with whom he’s been living for several years, suddenly not only wants to end their long relationship, but he also, for some inexplicable reason, plans to sue Seth. All of these pronouncements arrive in the form of several impersonal text messages on Seth’s cell phone during the course of the night. So while Mike rants and raves about his future, his generation and his life with its many disappointments he‘s oblivious to the fact that his best friend, who is sitting right in front of him, is suffering his own crisis. While Mike is about to have it all, Seth is on the brink of losing everything. If ever there was a time when two friends needed to really listen to each other it’s during this long night’s journey into day, fueled by alcohol, televised pay-for-view porn and more angst than any hotel room has ever experienced.
Adam Webster has directed this new play with a light hand, a natural pacing and an eye focused on what’s natural and realistic in today’s world. None of the playwright’s ideas are particularly novel or earthshaking. There are very few “aha” moments in this drama. Everyone in the audience has experienced something similar at some point in his life and can relate. The boys’ problems, concerns and ultimate solutions don’t break any new ground here. What happens is what’s expected.
Webster’s production simply stands out as one of those slice-of- life dramas during which two people open their hearts, share their feelings, explore their options and end up stronger in the end, due to their relationship. As a wise man once said: “Friendship isn’t about whom you’ve known the longest…it’s about who came and never left your side.” Because of this tiny theatrical space’s intimacy, the audience feels as if they’ve just shared the evening with two friends and never left their sides.
Reviewed by Colin Douglas
Presented July 31-August 24 by The Side Project Theatre Company, 1439 W. Jarvis St., Chicago.
Tickets are available by calling 773-340-0140 or by going to www.thesideproject.net.
For more information about this and other area productions visit www.theatreinchicago.com.