Spotlight: The Swim

Liz Josheff

This engaging piece of abstract theater by Janet Allard operates on the premise that reality is best described as a metaphorical ocean rather than a river. While the river courses ahead in a linear and single-minded fashion, reality moves with a vastness that bedevils pinpoint understanding. The show begins with Katie Leo's Meng Jiang railing at a Chinese emperor who has done her wrong. She's joined in short order by Jillia Pessenda as Mary Lou, a carb-scarfing Olympic hopeful sporting a leotard and gold medal, then Miriam Must as Mimi Chasms, a corset-wearing ingénue from the past whose existence was defined by being pursued by men. Rhonda Lund plays Auntie No Hoo Hoo, a sort of wild-eyed Caribbean oracle, and John Bolding pitches in gamely in a variety of roles that require him to play an old Chinese man and an energetic commentator in a wet suit. Essentially, all these characters are thrust into an ideational sea divorced from time and space, and their personality dynamics are played out in shifting scenes and disembodied dialogue. Matters are helped considerably by Allard's writing, which is taut and poetic and quite free of self-indulgence. It's a startlingly physical performance, with the actors pantomiming swimming throughout, alternately hurling themselves through invisible tides of thought and building a rhythm of movement that nicely assists the intellectual flow. Must and Bolding stand out in a scene in which Mimi is accused of holding out on her suitors for too long (she rebuts that she was "chased and chaste") that has resonance with Andrew Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress" ("had we but world enough, and time"). This is a show that paints in broad strokes, but it has such an undeniable energy that it brings you to the non-narrative farther shore it intends to.

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