By Martin Ralph
Never Swim Alone! That’s good advice at any time. But, when you take that advice and turn it on its head to create a theatrical battle royale between two men striving to be ‘The First Man’ at any cost, the result is something very different indeed!
The play Never Swim Alone is being performed by Revelstoke Theatre Company on August 11, 12, 13 and August 18, 19, 20 at 7 pm at The Regent Hotel, both as a buffet ‘Dinner And A Show’ evening by the master chefs at the Regent 112 Restaurant or ‘Show Only’ evenings, complete with pre-show and in-show cocktails, post-show meet and greet with the cast and crew, and a Q and A session following all performances to talk about the show, for those who might like to stay and share their experience.
And what an experience! Daniel MacIvor, the Canadian author of this play is world-renowned for his abstract work, and Never Swim Alone is no exception! This brilliantly conceived and executed abstract satire takes us on an incredible journey, which at first appears to be about two men re-living their best-friend boyhood competitive antics, but which then takes twists and turns that reveal some deep and closely held secrets, some from tragic circumstances which these two men have had to grapple with their entire adult lives. As the story unfolds the climax and culmination is breathtaking.
As a one-act piece running just under an hour, this show is written as a 13-round competition between Frank DeLorenzo (Ray Cooper) and Bill Wade (Darren McKay) who are refereed by Lisa (Danielle Foisy). The play features very impressive synchronous and split-synchronous dialogue and action between the two men that is mesmerizing to see and hear. Both men pull this off with ease and fluidity. At first the effect makes us wonder if these men are the same person, or two individuals charting the course of common memories and experience. Danielle Foisy as the referee is equally adept at keeping the men and the rounds under control and moving the drama along quickly. But she too has a story to tell, which also unfolds as the story develops in a very impactful way!
The actors’ rhythm and pace is spot on. Darren McKay, veteran Theatre Company actor and director brings in a very solid performance as Bill, a conflicted yet confident house-proud man, who desperately needs to one-up Frank at every turn, and prove that he will not be outdone even when his own weaknesses appear before us. It would be easy to believe he is the sympathetic character in this piece, but Bill has surprises in store for Frank!
Ray Cooper brings home an outstanding performance as Frank. His interpretation and expression of the character and motivation is one of the best I have ever seen in community theatre. Ray has some past theatrical background and education, but that said his portrayal here could easily make one believe he has had professional training. Ray offers a performance as Frank that is truly moving! And at certain points these beg us to wonder how much he has had to endure in the decades preceding his adult, somewhat prescribed businessman, macho outward appearance presentation. We know there is something much deeper going on, and it is soon revealed.
There is a very subtle sub-text in this story that asks us to examine the roles and meaning of male life in a culture asks men to be the traditional bread winners, the hunter-gatherers in a world that now looks very different. And which both Frank and Bill must somehow resolve in this skillfully designed competition.
As a thoughtful and somewhat critical director it is often difficult for performances to move me very deeply. I use this as a benchmark to the success of an actor portraying their character, and the director’s faithfulness to the script. Never Swim Alone has achieved this, as was also the case with last year’s performance of David Auburn’s Proof directed by Denny Kaulback. There are moments in Never Swim Alone that truly moved me and left me feeling somewhat exhausted from the pace and impact of the story I experienced.
First-time director Justin Smith has done amazing work with his resolute interpretation of the script and faithfulness to the author’s intention. These are the primary goals of any good director, and with mentorship and assistance from seasoned directors, Justin has done an outstanding job, while continually injecting his unique vision and understanding of this story. Kudos to him for taking on such a complex abstract satire that might make even the most experienced director a little skittish.
You must see this show! There are some very comic portrayals, as satire generally offers, but as an abstract there are also some deeply moving moments that give us the experience of truth inside the lives of these men. For those who are interested in what post-modern theatrical performance looks like this is a perfect example and opportunity to experience! It is one of those shows that grab you from the very beginning and doesn’t stop for a second until its stunning finish.
Never Swim Alone is not a family oriented performance. There are abstract themes which might be out of reach of viewers under the age of 16. There is also some minor coarse language and actions that might be upsetting to sensitive guests, though they are performed in a light and comical way. Anyone above the age of 16 would most certainly enjoy this show!
Over the course of its 40-year history, the Revelstoke Theatre Company has become well known for pushing the edges and challenging audiences with it’s presentations, and Never Swim Alone certainly does that! Come experience this summer event and see the best of what Revelstoke performing arts has to offer! You will not be disappointed!
I strongly recommend audiences purchase “Dinner And A Show” tickets as quickly as possible so that the Regent 112 can plan enough food for everyone! Please do not wait until you get to the door, or they will be disappointed if they are unable to seat you! “Show Only” tickets are also available for those who would prefer to see the show alone.
Tickets are available at Revelstoke Credit Union, The Regent Hotel and Online at www.revelstoketheatrecompany.org
Full more details, ticket information and the show story visit: www.revelstoketheatrecompany.org
Martin Ralph is the chairman and artistic director of the Revelstoke Theatre Company