The Questioning of Nick, The Questioning of Nick, & The Questioning of Nick (Again) | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Arts & Culture » Performing Arts Review

The Questioning of Nick, The Questioning of Nick, & The Questioning of Nick (Again)


Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe


The Questioning of Nick, The Questioning of Nick, & The Questioning of Nick (Again), A Red Orchid Theatre. In drama, one cannot say the same thing twice. You can repeat the same words, of course, but each time a statement is repeated its context changes, and so does the subtext, if only slightly.

This principle is illustrated perfectly in A Red Orchid's three performances of Arthur Kopit's The Questioning of Nick, in which the three roles--a detective, his assistant, and a suspected criminal they're interrogating for assault and fraud--are rotated among three actors. Though the speeches are reproduced verbatim each time, the differences in meaning are huge: in one performance the culprit is a confused adolescent, in another a Kafkaesque prisoner, and in the third a psychopathic killer-in-training. The detective might be an avuncular counselor or a megalomaniac, and his sidekick a black-shirted thug or an informant whose supposed timidity conceals a terrifying sadism.

Michael Shannon, Guy Van Swearingen, and Nick Offerman--the cast assembled by director Richard Cotovsky--immerse themselves in their multiple roles with concentrated agility and intensity (the entire exercise consumes a bare 75 minutes), committing themselves so thoroughly to each role that the thrice-uttered dialogue never seems redundant. If you ever wondered how eyewitness accounts of a single event can differ so greatly, this production goes far toward providing an explanation. --Mary Shen Barnidge

Support Independent Chicago Journalism: Join the Reader Revolution

We speak Chicago to Chicagoans, but we couldn’t do it without your help. Every dollar you give helps us continue to explore and report on the diverse happenings of our city. Our reporters scour Chicago in search of what’s new, what’s now, and what’s next. Stay connected to our city’s pulse by joining the Reader Revolution.

Are you in?

  Reader Revolutionary $35/month →  
  Rabble Rouser $25/month →  
  Reader Radical $15/month →  
  Reader Rebel  $5/month  → 

Not ready to commit? Send us what you can!

 One-time donation  →