Swimming in the Shallows

Barb and Carla Carla celebrate Barb's birthday. (Mary Niederkorn and Maureen Bucell)

In 2000 when Canadian gay playwright Adam Bock concocted Swimming in the Shallows, he no doubt anticipated that the shock of gay weddings and awe of cross-species romance would drive theatregoers into theatre seats.

In Salem in 2012, gay weddings may be passe and romancing a shark might be an intriguing metaphor, but the performances of the Salem Theatre Company’s ensemble cast are among the best I’ve seen and the real reason to claim a seat in the STC’s Lafayette Street black box before March 31.

This quirky and surreal comedy is at times exhausting.  While the performers do a remarkable job of keeping high energy flowing through serial romance,ongoing attempts to quit smoking, and the winnowing down in the Buddhist way to eight of a lifetime of possessions, I found myself needing a reprieve from incessant chuckles.  Not sure that’s entirely a bad thing, either.

I imagine Bock is trying to say something poignant here about the meaning of life: that relationships no matter how conventional or cavalier are about hard work and listening; that we find love in the most shocking and dangerous places; that we need not clutter our life with things.

They’re resonant messages, if not challenging, and that’s perhaps the interesting bit.  In a mere twelve years, we’ve had the revival and joined the choir.  It’s Billy Graham at Baptist Youth Day.

Indeed, following Wednesday’s final dress rehearsal the audience joined the cast in ecstatic congratulations for stellar performances.  We didn’t, though, debate the meaning of the shark or discuss the difficulties of getting rid of things or compare and contrast gay weddings and heterosexual marriages.

And just like eating cake, that might not be a bad thing.

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SWIMMING IN THE SHALLOWS
March 8 – 31
Thurs – Sat at 7:30 p.m.
Sun at 3:00 p.m.
$12 – $22
salemtheatre.com

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