Review by Mark Dance
60 mins | Comedy, Solo Show | Mature
From a kilted private school nerd with saliva-control issues to a grumbling geezer on his deathbed, the world of Fishbowl is populated by absurd and gut-busting personalities. Mark Shyzer takes on four distinct characters and, although they momentarily feel like a gang of shallow sketch characters, he prevails in nailing each one by deepening their portraits. Besides being unquestionably hilarious, his portrayal has us believing by the end of the show that these people are also interesting and meaningful.
Shyzer’s script is the real star of Fishbowl and deserves much praise. It hits joke after joke with speed and cunning. Wisecracks that most writers would be happy to hit a couple of times in a show are everywhere and Shyzer is precise and clever with his delivery, faltering only a couple of times. Philosophy and physics form the core of a surprisingly original story.
Oz Weaver’s lighting design is smooth and effective, easing the considerable character burden borne by Shyzer and nicely demarcating shifts in time and space. Darkness is a character all its own and Weaver employs it well towards the surprising climax.
Evalyn Parry’s direction and Sarah Olmstead’s production serve Shyzer equally well and live up to the challenging script. At moments when we lose some confidence in the possibility of the story’s resolution, solid blocking and smart choices about rhythm restore faith that it will indeed be delivered.
And besides, we are sagely warned near the start of the production by Shyzer’s muppet-like old man that “it can all be a rambling mess but if you have a good conclusion, you’ve still got half a chance.” If Fishbowl is a mess, it is the best kind of mess imaginable. This is a fine piece of theatre.
Fishbowl is playing at the Venue 3 – Academic Hall (133 Seraphin-Marion, University of Ottawa), Tuesday June 19 at 8:00; Wednesday June 20 at 11:00; Friday June 22 at 8:00; Saturday June 23 at 6:30 and Sunday June 24 at 6:00. Tickets are $10.