Review: World Premiere of “Swimmers” by Rachel Bonds at Marin Theatre Company (***)

by Charles Kruger
Rating: ***
(For an explanation of TheatreStorm’s rating scale, click here.)

Walter (L. Peter Callender) & Charlene (Sarah Nina Hayon) conversing in the break room. Photo Credit: Kevin Berne.
Walter (L. Peter Callender) & Charlene (Sarah Nina Hayon) conversing in the break room. Photo Credit: Kevin Berne.
This reviewer is a voting member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)
This reviewer is a voting member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)

From the opening scene of “Swimmers,” set in the basement of a nine floor office building where manager Charlene encounters custodian Walter, the audience knows they are in good hands. The writing is crisp, careful, and amusing, the characterizations clear. We are drawn immediately into the world of the unnamed company for whom all the characters work in a generic office building in a generic industrial park. Here in the basement we are introduced to the first crisis of the day: an exploding toilet on the fourth floor.

The play unfolds in nine scenes, one for each floor of the office building, from the basement to the roof, as various characters experience various crisis as they figuratively swim through the day, gradually emerging together on the rooftop under the stars.

We learn a great deal about the characters, from the new intern who feels she has been sexually harassed, to the overwhelmed manager, the philosopher-in-recovery custodian, the stoner, the jolly fat guy, and more, each of them struggling to stay afloat in their various pods of loneliness.

It is a lovely conceit, and makes for a very entertaining play. Among its several charms are the particularly subtle and effective sets and costumes by Diane Laffrey, and the equally sterling light and sound designs by Kurt Landisman and Theodore J. H. Hulsker, respectively. Each floor of the office building is differentiated, moving from the lowly basement to the executive suites, all under grimly familiar fluorescent lighting and generically furnished. We can feel the hope and the despair.

Each short scene is a complete play in itself, although they all interrelate, and some are more successful than others. By far the best is the scene in which Dennis, a large, friendly, joke telling man, gradually reveals a hidden sorrow. Adam Andrianopoulous does wonders with the character, and practically steals the show. It is an award-worthy performance.

None of the other sequences are quite up to this standard, but all are entertaining and the performances are more than fine overall, with each actor having some excellent moments.

“Swimmers” is a solid, entertaining, if not truly exceptional, night at the theatre.

“Swimmers” plays at the Marin Theatre Company’s Boyer Theater in Mills Valley through April 27, 2016. For further information click here.

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“Swimmers,” a world premiere by Rachel Bonds, produced by Marin Theatre Company. Director: Mike Donahue. Scenic & Costume Designer: Dane Laffrey. Lighting Designer: Kurt Landisman. Sound Designer: Theodore J. H. Hulsker.

Cast:

Tom: Aaron Roman Weiner. Walter: L. Peter Callender. Charlene: Sarah Nina Hayon. Vivian: Kristein Villanueva. Randy: Max Rosenak. Priya: Jolly  Abraham. Farrah: Jessica Bates. Yuri: Brian Herndon. Bill: Ryan Vincent Anderson. Dennis: Adam Andrianopoulos. George: Charles Shaw Robinson.

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