Alliance Repertory Theatre Company features a Who’s Who of New Jersey’s finest community theatre actors and the kickoff to its 2017/2018 season is the NJ Premiere of Adam Bock’s “Swimming in the Shallows.” This is a quirky play that mirrors life, for the most part, and while I don’t want to spoil the dénouement, happiness may often be found in the most in-ter-est-ing places.
Barbara (Debbie Bernstein) and Carla Carla (Sarah Kuhns) are chatting—commiserating?—about their respective love relationships. Barbara is on a new undertaking–she’s read about Buddhist monks whose possessions number only eight. Yes, only eight items including their clothes! Hmmm, do shoes count as two or one? Either way, Barbara is determined to reduce her karmic burden. Carla Carla is in a deep love relationship that might be trending toward marriage, and Barbara has some advice in that regard as well.
Nick (Gus Ibranyi) is the EveryGayMan. Prototypically, always on the prowl and a serial monogamist, Nick swaps in sexual encounters for intimacy in his life. He’s searching, always moving forward, and cannot seem to hold down a relationship. Ironically, then, he’s BFFs with Carla Carla and her fiancée Donna (Elissa Strell), as well as their confidante and erstwhile wedding planner, cheerleader, and all round perfect BFF. His insouciance is betrayed by his sense of empty searching, though he’s not sure what he’s looking for and will he even recognize it when he finds it?
Bob (Gordon Weiner) is Barbara’s husband. This poor benighted man is trying to figure out, as so many men find themselves doing, what has happened to his wife. Women get married, it is said, expecting to change their spouses, while men marry hoping their spouses will remain the same. Neither Bob nor Barb has gotten what they expected at this point. Can they come together? Or will they explode? Stay tuned.
And THEN there’s the Shark! Sean Morgan is imported from NYC to play–wait for it–a gay shark! While Nick’s cruising is shark-like in its meandering intensity, Sean’s Mako swims for pure joy. There’s darkness in his light demeanor and, as he reels Nick in, we see silver flashes of–danger? intensity? mayhem? See the show and be the judge!
This ensemble brings a wealth of subtlety and detail to each performance and how they interlock is beautiful to behold. Favorites like Strell and Ibranyi are delightful, Kuhns is nuanced, and seeing Gordon Weiner in the front of the house, as he’s usually designing sets and creating theatre in a more corporeal way, is equally delightful. Bernstein is perfection in her sense of attempting to make order out of chaos as the scales fall from her eyes and she sees the world oh-so-differently now. The Shark: Morgan’s Shark with his sense of chemistry, attraction and danger is what I’m thinking of still.
Make your reservations NOW! This play only runs until September 23! Make an evening of it and get your tickets here at www.alliancerep.org