Fishbowl starts off deceptively; writer / performer Mark Shyzer introduces his cast of characters with such blasts of humor, and his transformations are so successful, that you might be fooled into thinking Fishbowl was written to be little more than a vanity piece in order to showcase Mr. Shyzer’s talent of reeling off bitingly funny one-liners while embodying 5 seemingly unrelated but unforgettable characters.
Soon enough as these characters cycle through, however, you begin to see that each of their monologues are really more like clues that lead you to the real story which intricately weaves such heady topics as Dark Matter, The Uncertainty Principle, and The Grand Unified Theory of Everything in between the huge laughs. By the time this Babel-in-a-Fishbowl ties all the ends together the story has become more fascinating than funny … and that’s a good thing.
Shyzer takes the stage without costumes for this production, but it’s easy enough to follow along as he moves from character to character … and as each character is revisited your understanding of each one of them deepens as more of their back story is revealed.
First up is Esther, a 14 year old science nerd who is telling her story not to us, but to her best friend, Frank … a goldfish. While she’s both annoyed at having to share her class project with the biggest slacker in her grade, she also admits to Frank that’s she’s secretly thrilled that this random pairing may be the start of a wonderful friendship. As she explains to her fish … “I need some friends who aren’t outward manifestations of my antisocial tendencies.”
Next up is Frances, a disenchanted 16 year old who would rather be known by “Ravyn”. He spends a lot of time brooding, moping, staring, thinking and contemplating. His biggest upcoming tragedy is that he’s being told by his parents that he’s got to go to a “Birthday Party slash Barbecue slash Family Reunion slash … my wrists”.
We are also introduced to Janice, a gin soaked barfly who confides in Trevor the bartender about the daily ups and downs of what, upon first examination, seems a very pointless and superficial existence. She talks about just having come back from a gay cruise with her gay ex-husband (“A Gay Cruise … the boat, not the scientologist”). Her description of a certain little extra she got at the on-ship spa was so packed with clever lines that I could barely keep from replaying the very descriptive visuals that were placed in my head even days later. To try and repeat it here wouldn’t do it justice … you’d have to hear it for yourself.
Eventually we come upon Walter who is an old man apparently on the verge of death whiling away his last days in a hospital bed and checking in every so often with his comatose roommate, George, who of course can’t answer. He spends his time trying to come up with some meaningful last lines to speak on his deathbed in between asking George to pull his finger.
Lastly, interspersed via TV and sometimes in person we meet Carol, perky host of a TV exercise show. But what’s going on in front of the camera is only half as interesting as what goes on when the tape stops rolling.
Fishbowl does the unexpected: brings enormous concepts of the universe down to a level of understanding that even the most scientifically challenged among us (ahem, that would be me) can understand, and delivers it all with a spoonful – no, make that a Fishbowl full – of laughter. A definite Frigid must-see.
~~~Fishbowl Written and Performed by Mark Shyzer Wednesday, February 24, 2010 through Sunday, March 07, 2010 The Red Room 85 East 4th Street New York, NY 10003 Click here for tickets.