Here’s a one-woman performance piece authored by Canadian playwright, Daniel MacIvor, which has been knocking about since the mid-80s. It’s not difficult to see why, as a dramatic work, See Bob Run is attractive for many smaller production companies: it deploys just one performer, is immediately emotionally and linguistically accessible, requires no real props, and treads with great poise the line between comedy and tragedy. This is an intensely felt, fast-paced, wordy monologue that would whet the appetite of any attentive, aspiring actress, or director. In Dancing Torero Productions’ current embodiment of the play, running as part of the 2012 Planet Connections Festivity, we can be mighty grateful that it should have come to the attentions of David Gautschy, who directs, and Allison Plamondon, who plays the eponymous Bob. Together they pull out all the stops and deliver an hour of scintillating theatre.
Our character, Bob (never Roberta!), is a young woman hitchhiking across Canada, heading east – where there’s “a lot of water”. She’s hoping to reconnect there with her estranged father, who was kicked out by her mother years before. Nervous, chatty, somewhat ill at ease, Bob might not be the safest hitchhiking bet you’d stop for. She has a slightly cracked sense of humor and – guarded as she is -her undisciplined conversation quickly strays on to intimate territory, and toward gun play. By turns she’s sharp and confiding, but all her bravado only thinly masks a sense of great trouble, which she won’t be drawn on. It’s this trouble, ultimately, she is running from. Right from the beginning, when Bob stands tall, straddling two chairs, and addresses the audience directly, relating a fairy tale about a lovely young princess, a doting father, and a jealous mother, we may think we know in which direction this story is heading. It’s Plamondon’s vibrant performance which keeps recalling you to the moments unfolding on stage, distracting you from the sense that maybe you know what has prompted her flight. This is a performance of some power and complexity, one that uncovers a magnetic sense of drama and appeal in a character who is herself blind to these qualities.
As you enter the auditorium you will see Plamondon busily moving about the stage, establishing the set. There isn’t that much to do, as everything is minimal and basic, but her frenetic energy subtly broadcasts that she is already in character. On “curtain up” she very much already owns the stage, and has elaborated an emotionally charged environment. She uses the space effectively to conjure domestic settings, car interiors, rock bar venues, and desolate roadside locations. As a presence Plamondon’s Bob is instantly appealing, with a bold, open gaze to the audience – calculating but not dismissive. There is a physically expressive character to her movements, very natural, never clownish, that speak volumes about a brittle sense of self command, a defensiveness that disowns a history as a fat girl who took tap classes. Bob is adept at conjuring the presences of personalities from her past: Tamara, her self-abandoned, damaged best friend; Timmy Prince, her adoring rock-singing boyfriend. Plamondon invests Bob with a lively sense of verbal and physical comedic timing, something which deepens the character’s otherwise glib assessments, shadowing a burgeoning sense of self-mockery, the ghost of a self-awareness. This is a subtle undertaking as Bob, in more important ways, is willfully blind to herself, her history, her goals. She depends desperately on the stories she spins for herself. They’re adopted blinkers she wears in a bid for a sense of self control. But it’s only a matter of time and opportunity before they will slip. This is all electrifyingly clear from Plamondon’s characterization, but her performance will keep you glued to your seat, hanging on every next utterance.
The strengths of performance, and writing, are thrown into relief by the production’s stripped-down, impressively spare set and lighting effects (Donald Eastman, Giovanni Villari). Additional atmosphere is generated with sound and rock music excerpts (Tracey Toth, Daniel Zaitchik) but is deployed frugally, giving prominence to words and actions. The result is a choice piece of theatre which packs quite a punch. Gautschy has delivered a memorable version of a drama piece presently coasting into its quarter century, and Plamondon gives what has to rank as one of the outstanding performances of this year’s festival. See See Bob Run; don’t walk – run.
See Bob Run
Produced by Dancing Torero Productions
Written by Daniel MacIvor
Directed by David Gautschy
$18 General Admission
$9.00 for Film/Music Participants
FREE for Theatre Festivity Participants
Wednesday 6/6/12 – 5:00pm = Performance #1
Monday 6/11/12 – 4:00pm = Performance #2
Saturday 6/16/12 – 8:00pm = Performance #3
Wednesday 6/20/12 – 4:00pm =Performance #4
1 Hour 8 minutes
At Bleecker Street Theatre (Downstairs)
45 Bleecker Street, New York, NY 10012
Conveniently located near:
Bleecker St (4 & 6)
Broadway – Lafayette St (B, D, F, M)
Prince St (N, R)