THE QUALITIES OF ZERO by Jacob Richmond, directed by Michael Kessler, with Scott McCord, Rodger Barton, John Cleland, Carly Street, Robert Tsonos and Barbara Gordon. Presented by Jack in the Black Theatre at the Tarragon Extra Space (30 Bridgman). To December 16, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2:30 pm. $14-$20, Sunday pwyc. 416-536-5018. Rating: NNN
having no feelings means no problems with other people, right? So thinks Roland Welby (Scott McCord), a scientist who injects himself with an experimental drug to distance himself from his mother's death and the craziness around him. But the drug makes the world around him even nuttier, and he ends up a 12-bushel basket case himself.Jacob Richmond's new comedy, The Qualities Of Zero, gets most of the laughs it aims for, with a wonderful performance by McCord as the neurotic Welby, looking like he'd happily recede into the nearest corner. He's desperate to tell a successful joke but unable to deliver anything but bad stand-up. McCord's a good enough actor to suggest an inner life for Welby even when the character's too drugged to show any emotions.
Michael Kessler's smart, nicely paced direction coats over the script's problems -- some of the figures are caricatures rather than characters, and the tone of the comedy switches awkwardly near the end. Most of the cast deliver properly bizarre laughs, and Robert Tsonos as Welby's medicated schizophrenic brother and Carly Street as his co-worker, who has a soft spot for dead lab animals, even inject some understated feeling into these outlandish people.
Barbara Gordon's nasty, lecherous CEO and John Cleland as a stoned neighbour also entertain. Only Rodger Barton as Welby's jealous boss goes awkwardly over the top, pushing hard for laughs and getting few of them.