SWIMMING IN THE SHALLOWS by Adam Bock, directed by Daryl Cloran, with Dylan Trowbridge, Holly Lewis, Caroline Gillis, Richard Greenblatt, Glynis Ranney and Clinton Walker. Presented by Theatrefront in association with Buddies in Bad Times Theatre at Buddies (12 Alexander). Runs to January 26, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2:30 pm. $15-$27, Sunday pwyc. 416-975-8555. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Compelling themes like rampant consumerism and the fear of commitment in straight and gay relationships float around in Adam Bock 's play Swimming In The Shallows . Too bad there's not enough depth in the script to warrant Theatrefront's careful production over at Buddies.
Bock's episodic, playful work tells the overlapping stories of three couples living in what seems like a small Rhode Island town. Donna ( Holly Lewis ) and the strangely named Carla Carla ( Glynis Ranney ) are considering getting married. Carla Carla's colleague/friend Barb ( Caroline Gillis ) is fed up with her possessions and wants to live like a Buddhist monk, possibly without her husband, Bob ( Richard Greenblatt ). And Donna's pal Nick ( Clinton Walker ), tired of one-night stands, believes he's found true love with a shark - played, complete with fin, by Dylan Trowbridge .
Apart from the surreal shark bit - which includes a gag about bumping into aquarium glass that's repeated so often it becomes tedious - the play delivers some sharp observations about people's fears of intimacy and deception.
These are compulsive, neurotic, overly analytical people who are trying to figure out how to quit smoking or how to meet Mr. Right. They're familiar because we see them nightly on situation comedies and in movies by James L. Brooks.
Bock's fond of simple, declarative exclamations - "This is bad," "I feel heavy" - that at first sound refreshingly unfussy but eventually come across as simplistic.
More problematic, it's never clear what he's sending up. Middle-class notions about marriage and ownership? How consumerism affects our relationships? And for all its prominence in the title and the marketing campaign, the shark metaphor never pays off.
That's not to say we aren't treated to good performances. Walker and Lewis share a few bittersweet comic moments while trying to break bad habits.
And it's good to see Gillis and Ranney back on the local stage. Gillis takes on the role of the play's social conscience with genuine inquisitiveness. And Ranney, while not exactly exuding sexual charisma (gee, would it have been that difficult to find two lesbians to play two lesbians?), has a winning energy that's infectious.
From Rough House's comic pratfalls to Trout Stanley's eccentrics and Little Dragon's kicks, there's lots to enjoy in T.O. theatres