nytheatre.com review by Ryan Emmons
February 26, 2010
Mark Shyzer's Fishbowl should be seen. Shyzer manages to balance the humor and sadness of his show through vibrant and differentiated characters that do not ask the audience for pity. He is a talented vocal and physical actor who navigates between roles swimmingly. We meet "a nerdy schoolgirl obsessed with physics, a nihilistic teenage hipster, a gin-soaked divorcee, an aerobic dance instructor, and an octogenarian with an odd sense of humor." Throughout the play connections among the characters are revealed, some less forced than others, and it becomes clear why we need to meet all of these individuals. I won't give away too much about any of the characters, but I will tell you that each is unique and honest, and particularly in the case of the octogenarian...surprising.
The characters are differentiated simply and effectively by Shyzer's distinct physical shifts and Oz Weaver's understated and elegant lighting design. Director Evalyn Perry smartly keeps transitions between characters quick and seamless. With such distinct physical differences between characters, I wished Shyzer and Perry had brought the vocal distinctions to the same level. Vocally, characters occasionally blended together. Shyzer displays great vocal talent and I am certain with a few key choices, these characters can be both physically and vocally distinct. It would also be helpful, and fun, to develop a clearer sense of place for each character. My mind told me that the stage left chair belonged to the octogenarian, but then the divorcee sat in his chair and it muddled the transition for me. That being said, Fishbowl finds more clarity in character than most solo shows I have seen; I'd just like to see it to go farther, because Shyzer is talented, endearing, and committed.
Fishbowl takes huge comic risks that pay off. It is a breath of fresh air to see someone talk about things that are personal, but also universal. Shyzer never stumbles into the gray area between theatre and therapy. There is an honesty and a beauty to this play that reminds us that we are all in the same pond and that we have the choice to drown, wade, float, or swim...hopefully we choose the latter.