BOB: A Life in Five Acts
A review by Marylyn Motherbear Scott
Funny. Smart. Americana. Real issues. Subtle. Unique! A chorus of characters — Rachel R. Sparks, Mark Friedrich, Pamela W. Allen, “Oasis” Darryl Hasten. So well done! Alice Williams, stage master, and Brian Bello, music master. So terrific! All on stage throughout the performance. Right in front of the eyes of the audience, the seasoned actors create the people and populace, the staging and the music. BOB, the great man himself — Cory Storey, imported from L.A. Cory. He is the story man! Superb!
This on-stage-everything is a part of what makes this show gratifyingly different. A dozen large cubes drawn, cartoon-style, on all sides make “an everchanging Rubik’s cube set.” The on-going reconstruction of this puzzle adds to the fast-paced action on stage. More than the staging however, is the story line — at once, a personal and a collective narrative of an American journey, it is everyday ordinary and monumentally metaphysical, a down-to-earth Twain-Circa-Now comedic yet poignant road trip.
It was Mendocino Theatre Company’s Opening of BOB, A Life in Five Acts, the Gala. Neighbors, friends, out-of-town visitors all gathered, chatting and energized. The ambiance was bubbly, like the champagne! The tables are filled with food, this time there was everything from hors d’oeuvres to take-out! The take-out was a curiosity. White boxes, the kind from Asian restaurants, with lettuce-wrapped veggies; chopsticks, too. The play begins at a White Castle fast foods restaurant. I heard there might be some, but saw none. No matter. Jim Gibson, our favorite bartender, Pouring! wine, beer, champagne, spirits, and a specially-concocted drink, named Whin Cocktail. There is a reason for the choices, but I can’t tell you. It would be a spoiler.
The bell rang. It was time to meet BOB. A glass of champagne in hand (At MTC, drinks inside the theatre are permitted!), I entered the house. On stage, in an open proscenium, there were four actors, a lighting technician, and a musician, each seated at six “stations” with chairs and trunks at hand, all colorfully draped with costuming and props and tools, each actor posing as the character that would soon be revealed.
These characters are the pillars of Bob’s life, the aspects that feed his persona and create the BOB we come to know. Or, think we know, for Bob grows up before our eyes, changing as age and experience informs him and us. As the action unfolds, these four actors — a chorus of characters — offer various aspects of what sets BOB on his life path, what matters to him as he journeys along, the synchronicity that ultimately seems destiny-driven, the dead-ends that tend to confuse and wound, the conflicts that drive him into choice, the ups and downs of the open road, the turns and the beckonings. Bound for the life of a man born for greatness, BOB portrays a comedic yet poignant pursuit of the American dream.
Bob’s beginning encompasses what is both dismal and auspicious. Born on Valentine’s Day (the auspicious part !) in the bathroom of The White Castle, (the dismal part!), his mother, herself perhaps destined for greater things, abandons him, and he is surreptitiously rescued by a waitress who cashes in her life savings, packs all that she has into a car, and disappears into the landscape of America, BOB in tow, traveling from rest stops to diners to national parks to monuments and, … I can’t tell you. It would spoil.
Bob’s fantasy of greatness is carved into the stonework of his mindful purpose and ours as we question the metaphoric landscape that once created our own dreams, housing us in grandiose mansions of what and who-do-you-want-to-be-when-you-grow-up? BOB faces life, embraces love, is disappointed, angry, ultimately comes to know an inimical wisdom and an unbridled absurdity — the once-upon-time American dream.
In the final analysis, there is a breathing in of life force offered in each person we love and each place that gives us a space in which to experience living, leaving its indelible mark upon our mind’s eye, creating in us a greatness that goes beyond our wildest dreams; and creating, in the end, a truer home, one populated by characters of our own making, living and dying along the way. The spirit carries us along, carries us through, carries us beyond.
White Castle burgers awaited us in the lobby.