RecommendedNothing, Nic Balthazar’s piece about bullying, makes it U.S. premiere as Unity Productions’ Fringe production, presented at Know Theatre. A one-man show, the multimedia play uses video and music to move the story forward. Nothing mixes forms and does it well: one part engrossing stage drama and one part, documentary.
Ben, played by Jon Kovach, is a young man with autism. He is tormented and berated daily at school. From the moment he gets on the bus, until he’s safe inside his home again that afternoon, Ben is a target.
He has trouble with loud noises, bright lights and deviating from his routine. The constant bullying begins to take its toll. But just when Ben is considering some drastic, tragic measures to alleviate his pain and humiliation, he meets a girl in a chat room who changes his perspective on life. Nothing is the documentary Ben makes of his experiences.
Jon Kovach’s command of the show is impressive. He is an actor as well as a DJ. The set is blank except for a screen and some AV equipment including headphones and a keyboard Kovach uses to play and pause the video and soundtrack. His performance of Ben is full of compassion but spends too much time at just one frequency, high and very intense. Ben speaks directly to the audience, sometimes through his video camera. Frequently, his words rhyme — brilliantly. His speech sounds like something you’d hear late night in a coffee shop, but feels more brutal and relentless. Kovach’s delivery is precise, direct and very clean.
Nothing is not an easy show to watch. It’s subject matter is upsetting — a kind and complicated boy needlessly tortured. The video/stage combination demands a very engaged audience. Nothing is well done, with a satisfying twist at the end.