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

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

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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

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