Adam Bock's comedy of love and danger gets a dream production from the Shotgun Players and director Kent Nicholson. Carla Carla (Dawn-Elin Fraser) and Donna (Katie Bales) are considering a commitment ceremony, but Donna's got to give up smoking first. Donna's best friend Nick (Liam Vincent) sleeps with guys first and falls in love later, after they've left him. Carla Carla's closest pal Barb (Mary Eaton Fairfield) read in Reader's Digest that Thai Buddhist monks allow themselves only eight possessions, and it sounds like a good idea to her -- life with stodgy husband Bob (a perfectly cast Gene Thompson) feels "too heavy." "I've got 48 pieces of Tupperware," she states. "That's enough for six monks." Oh, yeah -- and Nick decides the love of his life is a mako shark (John Flanagan, with a big fin strapped to his back) that resides at the aquarium where Donna works.
Through Oct. 24 at Theater Rhinoceros Studio, 2926 16th St. (at South Van Ness), S.F. Call (510) 655-0813
Offbeat, yet perfectly timed, Bock's play is a stunner -- full of intricate machinations, quirky dialogue, and monologues worthy of Durang. Characters address one person, interrupt with takes to the audience, and instantly address someone else, who may or may not be onstage. Director Nicholson manages these complicated filigrees expertly. Vincent's Nick flounces on and off the stage, briefly sets the scene, and proceeds to charm the pants off the audience, while Bales astonishes as Donna, making the play's difficult, quicksilver changes look incredibly easy. Fraser and Fairfield deftly contribute to the magic, though Fairfield sometimes lacks the required fluidity. Loopy pop songs crop up everywhere ("I Wanna Be Loved by You," the Wonder Woman TV theme, the B-52's, a James Bond underwater refrain, and more), wonderfully excerpted by sound designer Richard J. Silberg. Alex Lopez's enchanted lighting transforms Michael Frasinelli's simple set into an aquarium, a dump, a supermarket, and, best of all, a beach with fireworks. The Shotgun Players never break the spell Bock's play has cast; they enhance it. (Canadian Bock currently resides in the Mission, making him one of the best playwrights in the Bay Area.) In this show, love is risky, delirious, and utterly charming. Swimming in the Shallows causes a comic rapture of the deep.