Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Swimming in The Shallows"

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"Swimming in The Shallows"

by Adam Bock
Directed by Betsy Carpenter

Scenic Design by Susan Zeeman Rogers
Lighting Design by Karen Perlow
Sound Design by J. Hagenbuckle
Costume Design by Stephanie Richardson
Stage Manager Janean Smith

Barb...............Sophie Parker
Carla Carla..........Lizza Riley
Donna..............Leslie Arnott
Nick...............Daniel J. Kells
The Shark.............Rick Park
Bob.................Jerry Bisantz

Adam Bock may mean "Swimming in The Shallows" to be a stinging indictment of the shallowness of modern life, or a demonstration of how difficult it is to get below surfaces, or a satire of manners in an age of triviality --- or he may just have said to himself "Hell, if David Ives and Christopher Durang can get away with it, I can too!" Certainly the charaters deliver all their lines in a flat, fast, matter-of-fact sincerity that makes raising their voices (or lowering them for that matter) rare, and the lines are delivered straight out to the audience so that they rarely look at one another, all of that forcing onlookers to think of the odd things that are happening. They might really just be cartoon figures rather than people. Of course, one of the people in this play really isn't a person at all. He's a shark.

Rick Park plays The Shark in a black-vinyl body-stocking, plodding back and forth musing "Swim,swim,swim,swi.. oh, glass(turn) Swim, swim,swim,swi..oh, don't hit the glass(turn) Swim,swim.." Real shallow, huh? Well anyway, Nick (Daniel J. Kells) --- who falls in love with a new Significant Other every three days but they never call back --- falls in love with The Shark and asks Donna (Leslie Arnott) --- she works at the aquarium --- to introduce him to The Shark, and when she does they go for their first date on the beach where, for the first time, Nick follows his psychiatrist's advice and refuses sex on the first date and thinks he's made another social mistake. (I'm not making this up you know!)

Donna is smoking because Her Significant Other won't consent to a commitment/marriage unless she (Donna) stops smoking, and that makes her (Donna) so anxious she smokes. Lizza Riley plays that S.O., Carla Carla (No that's NOT an Alzheimers-glitch; check the program if you don't believe me), who eventually wears a nurse's cap so I guess she's a nurse because when the show starts she's sitting with Barb (Sophie Parker) who Is wearing a nurse's cap and they are both soaking their feet. Barb has read in Reader's Digest that there are Buddhists in Thailand who own only eight things, and feels so Heavy she tries to get rid of things --- even though her husband Bob (Jerry Bisantz, who comes into the play so late you'd think they were just going to talk about him all night) thinks buying new Things is a way of life, for him the only way of life.

Well, eventually --- I'm not spoiling anything for you here, am I? People who read reviews don't ever go to plays anyway, do they? But since you read this far you must be intrigued enough to wonder about it so, eventually, Carla Carla accepts Donna even though she can't quit, and Barb decides eight is an impossible number so she settles for 124 --- or maybe 123; do shoes count as one pair or two shoes? --- so Barb and Bob come to the Commitment Ceremony, and so do Nick and The Shark --- who did call after all, just not as quick as Nick had hoped --- and they all live, happily though shallowly ever after.

Susan Zeeman Rogers' set is really the shallow end of a green swimming-pool, down to little sprouts of dune-grass poking up from the cracks, and the water-level marked along the back wall, with an alcove where set-pieces waltz in on wires or wheels to make the aquarium tank and the supermarket in one of the dream sequences. Oh, I forgot the Dream Sequences! Well, frankly they're really forgettable, except they are an opportunity for Karen Perlow to do nifty color-shifts with her lights.

Betsy Carpenter's direction for this play is, well, shallow --- which may be a scathing insult if you liked the play, or misguided praise of you hated it. The flatness of every meandering turn of new plot sags a little in the center, especially in some cinema-montage sequences ("Friday" a line "Saturday" two lines "Tuesday" one line.....) that get more tedious than funny. "Swimming in The Shallows" is much longer than any David Ives play I've ever seen --- but shallower. Much, much shallower.


"Swimming in The Shallows" (till 16 May)
Boston Center for The Arts, 539 Tremont Street, BOSTON

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide