Firecracker Productions’ inexpensive, intimate take on Peter Sinn’s play Nachtreib Bob, A life in five acts (2011) is possibly the surprise hit of the season.
This life story of Bob, an ordinary man, is packed with incidents, wacky characters, surreal situations, and wicked gay wit that goes from the easy laughs of sitcoms to probing the human heart and why it breaks so badly. easily.
Yes, the program is too long. Too many dance numbers that resemble the iconic Jules Feiffer cartoon “Ode to Spring” from the voice of the people pale as they are made. Some scenes rewind on themselves instead of forward. And there are two epilogues that could be condensed without losing any of their emotional charge. In one of the tiniest rooms at Garza Studios, the darkly comic play begins to close in on us.
Bob is linear, as it follows our hero from his birth in a White Castle burger joint, to a childhood living with his adoptive mother in their beige Chevy Malibu as they travel across America, to his death and symbolic cremation on the steps of the Museum of Chicago art, her first love, losing her first love, losing her pants to her birth mother, finding her father, who is now a homeless man who was once the world’s greatest animal trainer, to his fate at the casino from Las Vegas The Martin Luther King, What’s Your Dream?, for his Howard Hughes existence filled with fantastical wealth, to his life as a beach bum in Mexico living in a parking lot with his flea circus. Everything comes full circle as the people in his life come and go at the right times, to guide him, to trip him up, but basically to give him hope to carry on.
Nachtreib’s surreal wacky quilt structure works splendidly with his dry, ultra-dry, unerring comic sensibility. He kept thinking about Thornton Wilder. the skin of our teeth. We bought it all: the strangeness, the theatricality, the let’s put on a show vibe, the prying lighting, because the cast absolutely believes it. They double and triple roles, and each cartoon is totally convincing and a lot of fun.
The play is firmly anchored by Abraham Zapata, a bear-and-a-half actor with the vocal chops of Orson Welles. He coos beautifully as a baby, gasps in awe at Mount Rushmore as a child, finds sweet ecstasy with Emilia (an attractive case of Arianna Bermudez), then changes his voice as he becomes a rich man under the command of his faithful butler. Tony (John Dunn, always watchable). ). It’s a stunning and defining performance, rivaling his Molina fulfilling his fantasies in Mildred’s Paraguas / Bilingue Talent. The kiss of spider women (2012). Bob’s dream is to become a great man, to be honored with a plaque somewhere, to be remembered. Zapata’s total performance is unforgettable.
Sammi Sicinski, as the adoptive mother, sweet Jeanine, is wonderfully understanding, then turns comedic gears as the Valley girl at a rest stop and a savvy Girl Scout in Las Vegas. She is wonderfully bubbly. Dillon Dewitt shines as drifting father Roy Gunther, or a tame wolf who can dance Fosse (don’t worry, it makes sense in the big picture). He possesses a soft charm and vibrant purr, like a younger version of Dad, who could tame wild wolves.
Directed rather loosely by Rhett Martinez, Bob’s picaresque adventures seem to have been produced on a budget of about $25. There’s a bed sheet, some projections of travelogues, chairs, boxes, a harmonica, no wardrobe except a red tunic for rich Bob and three leopard-print blouses for the prostitutes. But Nachtreib’s eccentric wit and Hallmark card message of “no one is alone” works extremely well, surprisingly. The five skilled musicians in the ensemble deserve success. Bob’s mantra is: I want to be a great man. Zapata handles this quite well. He gets the wish from him.
Bob: A Life in Five Acts continues through May 7 at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Garza Studios, 241 N. Milby. For more information, visit firecrackerproductions.org. $20