Review: Geva Nextstage's 'Bob' an engaging effort

07:09 PM, Mar 10, 2013

Bob, the story of a man born on Valentine's Day in the bathroom of a White Castle, plays through March 24 at Geva Theatre Nextstage, 75 Woodbury Blvd. (CHRIS BARELSKI/Photo provided by Aurora Theatre)/


Written By Marcia Morphy

If you go

What:
Bob: A Life in Five Acts.
When: Through March 24.
Where: Geva Theatre Nextstage, 75 Woodbury Blvd.
Cost: Tickets start at $30.
For tickets: (585) 232-4382 or gevatheatre.org.

When you hear the name Bob, invariably the first response is, “What about Bob?”

In this case, the real Bob: A Life in Five Acts stands alone and sweetly vulnerable on Geva’s Nextstage. In this relatively new play that premiered in 2011, he’s smart, he’s funny, he’s a dreamer, and you can’t help but like him. Plus, the fact that he was born and left behind in the bathroom of a White Castle burger joint in Louisville, Ky., on Valentine’s Day emphasizes from the start that Bob has lots of heart.

Playwright Peter Sinn Nachtrieb’s off-kilter comedy could easily be a clever story from Aesop’s Fables. It’s moral lesson? “In a pinch, a good use of our wits may help us out.”

And Bob definitely needs his wits to survive his transient lifestyle — first living with the waitress who found and adopted him in her Chevy Malibu for 12 years, and after her untimely death, subsisting on garbage leftovers from visitors at a freeway rest stop and sleeping in the back bushes on a bed made from Kleenex.

Combined with a stage set by Michael Raiford with giant letters spelling out B-O-B backlit in garish carnival-style Technicolor and narration by a four-member Greek chorus who constantly reaffirm, “You can do anything with your life,” Bob is a testament to resilience as he meets countless, quirky people in his quest for the American dream of greatness.

He wants his face on Mount Rushmore and a plaque where future generations will read about his accomplishments. Of course that’s not asking for much, is it, especially when Bob never graduated from high school? But Thomas Edison and Walt Disney didn’t either, the chorus reminds him.

I didn’t find the play laugh-out-loud funny, but the continuum of dialogue — complete with many pop references — cranked up the voltage with exhilarating energy in a loose, improvisational style. All the characters drifting through the background, from the police officer who loves his adoptive mother, to animal trainers, prostitutes, wayward “crazies” and Bob’s real parents lend color and authenticity to the story. And the chorus performances by actors Veronika Duerr, Wendy Melkonian, Doyle Reynolds and Scott Warren were superb in a sometimes manic, yet engaging effort to continually surprise us. Using a variety of props and at times sitting inside the holes of the oversized letters onstage, they added just the right versatility and didn’t miss a beat.

Nor did the star of the show, Rochester native and Greece Olympia High School graduate Dan Triandiflou, who was literally born on stage in graphic detail and whose character reminded me of Steve Martin in The Jerk — where he struggles through life on his own until a strange intervention of circumstances make him unbelievably wealthy.

Triandiflou plays Bob like a good-natured Boy Scout; he’s a joy to watch, and his actions speak just as loud as his words. But it’s only when the chorus doesn’t fill in the blanks of his life first. At times I wished his character had more impact — because after all, this play is about Bob.

And Bob deserves his 15 minutes of fame.