Wednesday, June 8, 2011

InnerMission Productions Presents: "Swimming in the Shallows"

by Paola Hornbuckle.  Nick (J.D. Burke) and The Shark (Philip John)InnerMission Productions is presenting Swimming in the Shallows,” a play by Adam Bock directed by Carla Nell at Diversionary Theatre. This contemporary, absurdist comedy starts off with a conversation about Buddhist monks and their limited possessions (eight). It trails into familiar territory with conflict about love and commitment, and that is where the familiar ends. Four characters: Barb (Kathi Copeland), Nick (J.D. Burke), Carla Carla (Kym Pappas), and Donna (Ever Parker) go back and forth about casual versus committed relationships. Still, their musings are encapsulated in  original and comical vignettes and enhanced by video and music which add an air of freshness to the topic. It is a topic that can be a bit tiringly overdone in contemporary theatre. The surrealistic improbabilities (Nick falls in love with a shark and they engage in a budding romance) add a lightness of touch to the entire production. The play ends without some overwhelming “aha” moment as abruptly as it started. I found this surprisingly refreshing.
Donna and Carla Carla struggle about whether to get married, Nick goes through men like Donna goes through cigarettes - until he meets the shark at the aquarium where Donna works. Barb wants to leave Bob (Kevin Six) because she has too many material things and wants to simplify her life like a Buddhist monk. The characters go round and round with their dramas, but they seem to be having too much fun on the merry-go-round of their thoughts about the subject to ever take the subject too seriously.
Parker portrays a spunky and engaging Donna, full of fire and wit. Copeland is an abrasive and acidic Barb a sharp contrast to her lofty, Buddhist goals. Six is boyishly charming as Bob, Barb’s confused and slightly befuddled (if not too horrifically sad) husband. I really loved that fact that he wore a t-shirt that said “Bob” the entire production. Barb’s obsessive talk of “Bob” objectified him and the t-shirt topped it off. John makes for the nicest, most dim-witted shark; but with great abs and great moves on the dance floor. His innocent personality is pretty funny considering he is supposed to be a shark. There is a dream sequence where Nick and The Shark make out to music and videos of sharks attacking their prey underwater. That says it all. Burke goes from indifferent player to smitten in ten seconds flat and the process is as cute as can be. Pappas adds an undertone of hysteria to Carla Carla and her bridal journey, taking away from the romance, but then again, there was not much romance to start. And that might be the point of it all. As all the characters ‘swim in the shallows’ of life and love, they might not attain much insight or depth but they take us along on their comical journey. Highly enjoyable.
“Swimming in the Shallows” is playing at Diversionary Theatre, 4545 Park Blvd from June 4 to June 26. Wed-Sat 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m. For tickets and information go to

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