Sunday, November 22, 2015

Production outperforms script at convergence continuum

Geoffrey Hoffman, in his directorial notes in the convergence-continuum program for BOB:  A LIFE IN FIVE ACTS, states, “Bob is an everyman . . .He is born with nothing and becomes a passionate adventurer—part myth, part reality, and completely legendary. . . For better or worse, he is the most memorable person you’ve ever met.” 

If Hoffman’s words were totally true, writer Peter Sinn Nachtrieb would have accomplished his goal.  As is, much of BOB:  A LIFE IN FIVE ACTS reminds of the Peanuts cartoon’s Charlie Brown, who is cute, but fails to learn that Lucy is always going to move the football and Charlie is going to wind up falling on his back with his errant attempts to kick the sphere.   He’ll never learn and never gain respect.

Bob is born in a bathroom of a White Castle restaurant by a mother who obviously has no use for him in her life.  She leaves him in the stall.  Bob is “adopted” by a restaurant employee, who goes on the run to avoid having to give up the child.  Bob leads  life as a precocious child who dreams of being a great man with a statue with a plaque paying tribute to him. 

He eventually morphs into the caretaker of a rest stop along the highway, an animal trainer, a winner of a large sum of money and gambling casino which he converts into a palatial home, and . . . his adventures go on and on for five overly written acts, with him never successfully kicking the football.

The opaque ending doesn’t help matters.  What message does Nachtrieb want us to gain from our time together?  As is, the play is a mash-up of many ideas, in search of a clear message.  Some place along the line Bob asks, “If I hadn’t been born would it have made any difference?”  Sounds like Arthur Miller asking, “is this the best way to live?” or Edward Albee’s existentialistic plea, “What is the purpose of life?”  Unfortunately Nachtrieb isn’t a writer with the abilities of either Miller or Albee.

This is not to say the theatrical experience is bad.  Hoffman and his gallant cast overcome lots of the writing problems by nicely packaging the play with absurdity.  The opening birth scene leads the audience to believe that this is going to be a “hoot” of a production.  The dances of luck, love, hope and other matters are appropriately ridiculous.  The characterizations are generally nicely exaggerated, leading to a farcical feel that often delights.  But the message never develops.

It’s almost worth seeing the production to revel in Eric Sever’s, “Jeeves the Butler” performance or to see the usually serious and focused Robert Hawkes in drag.  Nicole McLaughlin-Lublin and Katie Nabors are on target as they bounce in and out of various characters, and Doug Kusak is fine as the putty-faced Charlie Brown, oops, Bob.

Capsule Judgement:  BOB:  A PLAY IN FIVE ACTS, gets a con-con production, under the creative interpretation of director Geoffrey Hoffman, and the acting skills of the cast, that well exceeds the script’s development, purpose, and excessive length.

BOB:  A LIFE IN FIVE ACTS runs through December 19, 2015, at 8 pm on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at convergence-continuum’s artistic home, The Liminis, at 2438 Scranton Rd. in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood.  For information and reservations call 216-687-0074 or go to