Saturday, June 20, 2009

"Jack Goes Boating": ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ BANG

Get ready for something really wacky: a love story with a happy ending. Say what?

Bob Glaudini's "Jack Goes Boating," which opened Friday night at the Aurora Theater in Berkeley, doesn't feel like it's going to end up happy and the characters don't appear to be heading in any positive direction except back and forth to the bong; yet, we find ourselves upset because we feel disaster lurking. We remain at the edge of our seats as we try to urge the playwright to get slow-moving Jack into that boat with loopy Connie.

Clyde (Gabriel Marin) is a limo driver who works for the uncle of his friend Jack (Danny Wolohan). At first, the two sound like semi-literate slackers, as they sit around Clyde's house getting wasted between limo jobs. But then Clyde, who is the more world-wise of the two, gets Jack, who is either painfully shy or a borderline schizo, to agree to go on a date with Connie (Beth Wilmurt), who is a friend and co-worker of Clyde's wife Lucy (Amanda Duarte).

(There are two other characters, never seen but interwoven into the plot: Dr. Bob, the seamy owner of the funeral solicitation business for whom Connie and Lucy work; and The Cannoli -- a chef and ex-lover of Lucy's who has earned his name due to his prodigious, uh, pastry.)

They meet. Connie and Jack's lives are both buried in past issues, unspoken but out on the surface: Jack is a white rasta-wannabe, sort of, who carries around a tape of "By The Rivers of Babylon" (by the Melodians, from the sound track of "The Harder They Come"), which he plays constantly, usually at the most inappropriate moments. Connie, meanwhile, is damaged goods, terrified of sex and touching.

Still -- they are attracted to each other. Connie mentions that no man has ever cooked dinner for her. She also tells Jack she'd love to go boating some day. This terrifies Jack, because he can't swim. He can't cook either.

Now we are set up for the night's most wonderful moments: Jack learning how to cook (The Cannoli gives him lessons) and Clyde teaching Jack how to swim. Fabulous kudos to director Joy Carlin and set designer Melpomene Katakalos for allowing Gabriel Marin to do his two swimming lesson sololoquies. These are truly inspired theatrical moments.

All four actors are terrific, each able to make us feel his or her character's flawed vulnerability as well as reach inside to imbue each with soul. We walk out singing "By The Rivers of Babylon" and smiling like we've learned something about ourselves too.


The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards "Jack Goes Boating" Four Stars with a BANGLE of Praise. The Four Stars are the easy part: writing, acting, staging, lighting and musical cues are all excellent. It is not easy to single out one of the four actors for extra praise -- Gabriel Marin's Clyde is a fool but a sincere fool; Amanda Duarte's Lucy has a down-to-earthiness that makes us forget that she did have a two year affair with the Cannoli's prodigiousness; Beth Wilmurt's Connie has too many flaws to count but she is the one who knows how to do the correct thing when the burnt-up dinner threatens to destroy Jack along with the poached pears; but perhaps the BANGLE goes to Danny Wolohan's Jack, who is an impossible hero, a dunce with not much going on inside those almost-dreadlocks, but when we see the boat floating down from the rafters at show's end -- well. One love, mon.

Jack Goes Boating
Aurora Theater
2081 Addison St., Berkeley
Through July 19

No comments: