By Robert Bethune
Bob Glaudini’s play, “Jack Goes Boating,” now in production at the Blackbird Theatre in Ann Arbor, is best summed up in one word: Seinfeldian. The same qualities that made “Seinfeld” rewarding operate here. Like Seinfeld’s work, which blatantly belies his claim that it’s “about nothing,” this play is also superficially “about nothing,” but is in reality about love, trust, growth, forgiveness and friendship – very Seinfeldian subjects!
Director Michael Williams and his cast have constructed a precise, constantly varied and consistently entertaining production. This isn’t Shakespeare; you can’t stand still and say the lines and trust Bill to look after you. It’s intensely subtextual and emotional, and physical as well.
The level of energy in the cast reaches the intensity of farce, particularly in Matt Hollerbach’s portrayal of Clyde, all wild hands and arms and legs and wide eyes. However, my favorite performance, and favorite role in the show, is Alysia Kolascz’ tender and sensitive portrayal of soft, frightened, loving and, ultimately, courageous Connie, as she finds a way to get past her terrors and opens a path to love with Lee Stille’s awkward, bumbling, teddy-bear, sincere portrayal of Jack. Not to leave anybody out, Eva Rosenwald is just right as the crisp, conflicted and slightly bitter Lucy.
Brian Scruggs gives us a minimalist set that is attractive and serves the play well in the Blackbird’s cramped quarters. When the action of the play calls for a swimming pool or a boat on a lake, he works theatrically rather than scenically. His boat is just a pair of benches, his swimming pool is just a flat ledge. The actors and our imaginations do the rest.
Jim Costello’s lighting takes the same effective, simple approach. Williams’ sound design choices do more than in most productions, providing effective comic support in certain moments – don’t want to give anything away! – and striking just the right emotional note in the final fade.
‘Jack Goes Boating’
Blackbird Theatre, 1600 Pauline, Ann Arbor. Fri.-Sun., through Nov. 22. Tickets: $10-$20. For information: 734-332-3848 or http://www.blackbirdtheatre.org.