April 23, 2004





A laid-back approach to the human comedy


Light and snappy as an ocean breeze rippling a sail, Adam Bock's "Swimming in the Shallows" uses terse sketch-comedy shorthand to capture a slice of life among three couples in Twig, R.I.


There's nothing earth-shaking about these pairings--one straight, one lesbian and one, strictly speaking, inter-species--or about Bock's insights into them. But an unfussy, matter-of-fact tone is a big part of the show's appeal.


"There are Buddhist monks with only eight things," observes prim nurse Barb (Danielle Hoover) to her colleague Carla Carla (Shannon Sweetmon), a butch lesbian with commitment issues.


Or, rather, commitment ceremony issues. She and her lover, plain-talking Donna (Jennifer Fitzgerald), spend most of the play fretting about their upcoming wedding. Meanwhile, Barb strips her life of distractions, including her husband (Josh Levy), and gay Nick (Robbie Cain) tries to forgo serial dating for true love.


Romance comes along in the form of a dashing mako shark (Guy Woodson). No one bats an eye at this unlikely coupling, least of all Nick or the shark, who apparently can talk, dance, even sell Avon door to door.


This man/shark premise makes a strange stretch indeed, but somehow it gracefully crystallizes the show's pleasingly offhanded attitude of tolerance, not only for all orientations but for all manner of human foibles.


Director Anthony Meindl's cast is tight and well-tuned. But the show's tasty moral center is Hoover's Barb, who sheds bourgeois anxieties along with her starchy nurse's uniform yet maintains an irresistibly sunny, big-hearted disposition--not unlike the show itself.

--Rob Kendt


"Swimming in the Shallows," MetaTheatre Company at the 3rd Street Theatre, 8140 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles. Fridays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Ends May 30. $20. (323) 993-7113. Running time: 1 hour, 25 minutes.