Swimming in the Shallows
Oh no! Senator Rick Santorum's twisted fever dream of the ultimate effects of gay sex have come true! But it's worse! Santorum only imagined same sex coupling leading to "man-on-dog" relationships. But in Swimming in the Shallows, now at convergence-continuum, it is man-on-shark sex that is at issue.
And as it turns out, that cross-species dynamic is the most interesting part of a production that disappoints at almost every level. It's not that playwright Adam Bock can't write, it's that he relies on too many gimmicks and familiar comedy crutches. Barb and Bob are a middle-aged couple dealing with Barb's midlife crisis: Meanwhile their lesbian friends Carla Carla and Donna are thinking about a commitment ceremony, but Donna's chain smoking is an obstacle (ho hum). The fifth wheel on this clown car is Nick, a stereotype gay man who impulsively has sex on the first date. The only bright spot is when amorous Nick falls for a Mako shark at the aquarium where Donna works. The scenes where shark and man interact, both pulsing with deep desires, are both amusing and startling. Unfortunately, nothing else comes close to those moments, as director Lisa L Wiley doesn't find a way to help her cast develop interesting characters. Filled with a torrent of random, not terribly funny small talk and wink-wink title slides meant to prop up the comedy, Shallows feels out of its depth from start to finish. — Christine Howey
Through May 24, produced by convergence continuum at The Liminis, 2438 Scranton Rd., 216-687-0074.
Beyond the Horizon
"Be careful what you wish for, you may get it." Three characters in Eugene O'Neill's Beyond the Horizon see their wishes come true, only to fall into regret and sadness. Even though the script shows its age with frequently clunky dialogue, there is heat and passion at work here. When two grown brothers, Robert and Andy, fall in love with Ruth, the sparks fly. And when Ruth reveals her love for Robert, plans and destinies change radically New-found wishes soon turn to ashes in the hands of a playwright who has never seen a hope he couldn't quickly and thoroughly dash to pieces. The two brothers, of course, are the heart of the play. On one hand, James Rankin creates a fascinating Robert—you can sense the man's inherent weakness from his first moments on stage. But Keith E. Stevens never quite gets a firm hold on Andy. Too often relying on a chuckling delivery that raises one big question (What exactly is so funny?), he rushes many beats. Still, this is a play you're not likely to see again anytime soon. — Howey
Through May 18 at Ensemble Theatre, 2843 Washington Blvd., Cleveland Heights, 216-321-2930.