Monday, June 10, 2013


“Bob” was born in the bathroom of a White Castle, abandoned and then almost immediately rescued.  I think it was  in Kentucky.  His life is then born out in Five Acts and many Scenes, but first:

The courtyard of the Atwater Village Theatre is cooling as the sun sets behind the box office.  Santa shows up in cargo shorts with his legendary bowl full of extra jelly.  Theatre types schmooze at a table under a big green umbrella as one of the Millenials creates a piece of art on a small Etch-A-Sketch. It’s all captured on an iPhone by another friend.  Comrades on a Sunday afternoon.  There is a slightly grungy feel to the Atwater, though the work that I’ve seen here has been superior.  It’s not so funky as some other 99 seat venues in town and the two spaces there lend themselves to flexible and interesting ways to mount a show.  It was not a deliberate pre-show event, though it seemed a little like one.

As the audience enters the theatre space, red spotlights sweep the stage and the attendees. Angel Herrara’s imaginative set featuing  hundreds of boxes, bottles and other pristine detritus flank both sides of the stage reminding us that we are a consumer-based society.  A basket of tennis balls, an old fridge and a washer are part of the two mountains that would constitute a conceptual art installation anywhere else.  Center stage a moving wall becomes the backdrop for the Life of Bob (personable Jeff Galfer).

The play’s presentational style directed by Chris Fields reminded me perhaps of "Jules Feiffer comic panels meets Paul Sills’ Story Theatre." It is at once informative and informal as the five actors, including Bob, narrate directly to the audience the stages of Bob’s life.  His adoptive mother, Jeanine (Hutchi Hancock) has opted for a life on the road in her Chevy Malibu, educating Bob by experience.  He quickly absorbs bits of history and geography with some philosophy tossed in for good measure. After experiencing Mount Rushmore he yearns to be someone who “deserves a plaque:” someone important. He wants to make a difference in the world. 

Sadly Jeanine passes away on the steps of the Chicago Art Institute where she is cremated by Bob.  

Fields’ ensemble cast brings the story directly to the audience, morphing casually from one character to another as we discover Bob’s history via playwright Peter Sinn Natchtrieb’s obvious enjoyment of his own voice with broad cultural references.  This play is a personal story that plays tongue in cheek at once with deeper meaningful insights.  We all want to make our mark upon the world.  Finding our own "ringertraum" and exploiting it is a goal.

In this double cast production   we meet The Chorus:  Hancock, Rich Liccardo, Tara Karsian and Michael McColl who are having a great time every step of the way. Galfer plays Bob in both casts.  It’s casual. The acting may be secondary to just being present and laying out the story.  It’s a naturalistic style that blends perfectly with Natchtrieb's writing.  Scenic Designer Herrera’s mountains of commercial trash become the wings and mountain tops from which occasional interjections are made as we march and meander through the Life of Bob.  Like Garp, Bob has named himself after Bonnie (Karsian), his birthmother, drops him while taking a pee at the White Castle. She then runs away, literally slicing the umbilical, leaving him to be discovered by Jeanine (Hancock) who adopts him on the spot and asks him what his name is.  A deceptively workable two dimensional approach to the material is promoted by Keirstin Fernandes’s clever cut out props that are conveniently velcroed to the movable wall.  I especially liked the 'feedback' on the fake microphone. The highly unlikely serendipity of events leading Bob to discover his birth father  (Licarrdo) and other adventures is a little like the adventures of Forrest Gump.  It’s all totally plausible within the silly and very funny context of the piece.  Big laughs and some poignant insights make for a well paced two acts by the Echo Theatre Company.

Bob  by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb
Echo Theatre Company
At the Atwater Village Theater
3269 Casitas Avenue
Atwater Village, CA 90039
Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays through June 30, 2013
Tickets and Information:
 877 369 9112

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