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|Written by Agnes Cadieux|
|Friday, 20 August 2010 10:36|
When you ponder some of life's greatest questions, like why people order a double Big Mac and a Diet Coke, sometimes we realize that if we just stop and learn to be still, we can hear the answers whisper from within us. But this is not what the play Swimming in the Shallows is about - at least not at the surface. It is a play following the lives of three couples, Barb who is trying to live the Buddhist lifestyle much to her husband Bob's resistance, Donna, who hopes Carla Carla will accept her marriage proposal, but Carla Carla continues to refuse because of Donna's a smoker, and Nick, who meets a shark at the aquarium, and they go on a date to the beach. Sounds a little like something you'd experience after eating some bad anchovies, but the gist of the play runs deeper than its weird outer shell.
Written by Canadian playwright Adam Bock, Shallows has a reputation as a story where the characters aren't always likable (and you may even find them downright rude), yet something about its oddness just makes you want to know how it'll end. I beg to differ. The feel from the very beginning was quirky, modern, and real. The characters are in themselves a lot like you, me, or that guy down the road. Beneath the humor and the light-hearted atmosphere they dealt with issues we can all empathize with and have probably encountered in the past, such as trying to recognize the difference between love and lust, facing uncertainty surrounding love, and having to choose between habituated love and passion. It wasn't very obvious at first, but, as the play progressed this underlying theme diffused through the whole theatre and gripped the audience in its gravity. In his Director's Notes, Joël Beddows states, "I like this play [. . .] mostly because Bock's characters sometimes, no, mostly do not get it. But they have the courage to try."
The actors set the mood right from the opening scene by marching from one side of the stage to the other and sighing. Conversations occur between the couples, or more typically, between pairs of actor in a sort of whack-a-mole fashion. But the folks who disappeared into the background weren't simply on the sidelines waiting their turn, they were texting back and forth on their cell phones, watching TV or whispering to each other. This technique absolutely delighted my ADD personality, for when my attention slid off the main scene, I still had something interesting to look at. The dialogue was quick, sharp and had moments brimming with beautiful descriptors that were worthy of literary praise.There were a few very different styles between the characters that I thought played really well off each other. Barb (Maureen Smith) and Carla Carla (Manon St. Jules) brought a very 1940s flair to their characters, complete with a matter-of-fact tone and carefully reserved expressions. Donna (Margo MacDonald) reminded me of today's Generation X-ers - nonchalant, resourceful and brutally sarcastic - while Nick (Simon Bradshaw) brought a very free-spirited tone to the stage. Bob (Richard Gélinas) was a little more profound. You'd almost forget about his reclusive, so, when he finally emerged from behind his paper halfway through the play, his role brought a new level of tension to the plot and really intensified the storyline between him and Barb. And then there was the shark. Ah yes, the shark. Played by Marc Ouimet, this character was really something to behold. I am still not sure whether Bock intended for him to be literal or metaphorical, but he brought a surreal comedy to the set that I can only describe as smooth, oblivious, and pleasing to the senses.
The chemistry between the actors was light-hearted, and despite the deeper underlying messages to the play, they maintained a fresh bond with each other that brought believability to the stage, particularly between Barb and Bob, and Donna and Nick. Overall the play was an absolute delight. I walked in with slight hesitation, not sure how the plotline was going to unfold, but I was pleasantly surprised, entertained, and would be more than willing to see it again.
Swimming in the Shallows run at the Arts Court Theatre until August 22nd. For more information, and to purchase tickets, please visit www.artscourt.ca
Tags: adam bock, arts court, can con, joël beddows, ottawa, swimming in the shallows, theatre, water