Bob, perhaps not a Great Man, but a Great Play

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Jeffrey Binder as BOB and Aysan Celik, Photo by Alan Simons

In the interest of full disclosure, I wanted to see Bob because I know there was some connection to White Castle. I, like many, have a love-hate relationship with the slider. A once-a-year indulgence usually preceeded by being perhaps a bit “overserved.” How could a piece of Americana be inspiration for a play at Actors Theatre of Louisville? Talk about mixing low cuisine with high culture. Part of the Humana Festival of New American Plays, Bob was written by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb.

Nachtrieb was inspired and intrigued back in 2009 as he was working on another play at ATL and daily passed White Castle on the way to work. I guess inspiration really can come just about anywhere.

We meet Bob as he is born and abandoned in White Castle. In a bathroom. On Valentine’s Day. He is quickly scooped up by a determined burger slinger who dreams of being a “Mother to a Great Man.” Because a fortune cookie told her so. Of course! Bob grows up and makes his way in the world just as non-traditionally as he was born. He travels in a Malibu around the country but becomes a young orphan once again. He becomes an expert maker of friends – waitresses, truck drivers, policemen, street people, animal trainers. He lives at a truck stop. He becomes rich and jaded. And he finds his place in the world.

The whole story is laugh-out-loud funny and thought provoking. It is at once brutal in the reality it presents but also hopeful and contemplative. The writing and delivery are fast-paced. Some of the best acting is done by the four “chorus” members – 2 men and 2 women who play a menagerie of characters. There was a line flub or two, but the actors somehow make each character distinct despite the limited cast and wardrobe changes. What Lou Sumrall did with his voice impersonations/accents alone was enough for the audience to totally believe each character presented just seconds apart by the same four actors.

So, go see Bob. It runs through April 17.