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Review – “BOB: A Life in Five Acts” at Main Stage West – by Harry Duke

thumb_2_Gina Alvarado-Mark Bradbury-Laura Levin-650.jpg

Review – “BOB: A Life in Five Acts” at Main Stage West – by Harry Duke

Titles don’t get much more generic than BOB: A Life in Five Acts, but they are also rarely more succinct, for Peter Sinn Nachtrieb’s play is just that – a five act slice of life that follows its titular character from birth to an eventual Shawshank Redemption-like disappearance.

The current Main Stage West production is told via vignettes featuring Bob (Mark Bradbury) and with the expositional support of a four-person chorus (Gina Alvarado, Sam Coughlin, Laura Levin, and Nick Sholley), we follow Bob from his arrival on the bathroom floor of a White Castle restaurant and a life on the road with his “adoptive” mother (who ignored the explicit instructions in the White Castle Employees’ Manual to not fall in love with any “unexpected packages”) through his lifelong search for an answer to the question that has challenged man for eons - What is my purpose in life and how do I achieve it?

Mark Bradbury, Nick Sholley, Gina Alvarado, Sam Coughlin

Each of the five acts is a segment of Bob’s journey from roadside rest stops to Mount Rushmore to Las Vegas and is populated by a variety of Tim Burton-esque characters. The acts are divided by moments of dance representing different emotional states performed by the individual chorus members. If this sounds a bit odd, or quirky, or just plain weird, you’re right, it is. It is also funny, occasionally emotional, frequently joyous and just plain entertaining.

Director Sheri Lee Miller has gathered a cast that is up to the weirdness and acting challenges presented by Nachtrieb’s script. Bradbury, who would seem to have it easy by just playing one role, actually spends most of the first act portraying a newborn. As Bob progresses through the ups and downs that are life (love, death, success, failure, etc.) Bradbury displays great range and allows the audience the opportunity to invest in his character.

The other four cast members have the challenge of taking on the other thirty-odd roles in the story. They accomplish this with a quick change of shirt, or the addition of an apron, a shift in posture, or a vocal modification. All are excellent, and each has strong individual moments - Levin as Bob’s “adoptive mom”, Alvarado as his birth mother, Sholley as Bob’s biological father (who is eaten by wolves), and Coughlin as a drawling law enforcement officer – but they really gel as an ensemble in a couple of amusing scenes where they all portray waitresses at a greasy spoon.

Sam Coughlin, Mark Bradbury, Nick Sholley

This all takes place on a minimalist set (by Paul Gilger) with a soft, subtle lighting design (by Wayne Hovey) that never detracts focus from where it belongs – squarely on the talented cast. Miller and the cast keep things moving at a fairly good clip, and the show seemed shorter than its actual two and a half hour length (including intermission).

Nachtrieb’s script really treads no new thematic ground and the grand question is, of course, never answered, but if you’ve had your fill of the theatrical tried-and-true and are looking for something different and well done, consider joining Bob on the road less traveled. It’s a road trip worth taking.

BOB: A Life in Five Acts

Presented by Main Stage West

Thurs - Sat @ 8pm, Sun @ 5pm   through May 22

Thursday performances are "pay-what-you-will".

Main Stage West
104 N. Main Street, Sebastopol, CA  95472

(707) 823-0177

www.mainstagewest.com

Photos by Eric Chazankin

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