“Swim, swim, swim,” says Shark. “Watch out for the glass.” Shark bumps into the glass of his aquarium tank, but he just turns around and keeps right on swim, swim, swimming, and trying to watch out for the glass again.
Though Shark is the one to do it so clearly, all of the characters in Swimming in the Shallows by Adam Bock symbolically do this as they explore what’s really important in life. Performed by Ensemble Theatre’s Intern Company as part of the Fringe Festival, Swimming in the Shallows contemplates the ways in which all of us swim in too close to the shore.
We begin with Barb (Anne Dufault) contemplating how much stuff she ownswith her friend Carla Carla (Tess Talbot), in light of the fact that some Buddhist monks only have eight possessions. Carla Carla’s girlfriend, Donna (Paloma White), has recently asked her to marry her, but Carla Carla doesn’t know whether she wants to. Donna’s best friend Nick (Nick Tsangaris) is having romantic trouble because he always goes to bed with guys he goes out with too quickly and they never end up calling him again. And, at the aquarium where Donna works, Shark (Leah Baker) swims and bumps into the glass. As the play progresses, each of these conflicts deepen through short scenes, often between two or three of the characters.
The cast performs adeptly. Talbot’s relatable Carla Carla is a standout and Dufalt presents a pleasantly annoying characterization for the materially concerned Barb. Additionally, director Michael G. Bath’s simple yet effective staging makes good use of the Ensemble Theatre stage and keeps the show tied together nicely. Shallows moves with a fine energy, though by the end, it feels as though it should have headed back to shore slightly sooner.
Swimming in the Shallows is a complex show, and the ETC Intern Company manages to keep it afloat swimmingly.
by Richard Lowenburg