ART's bob... Portrays the Ordinary in an Extraordinary

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bobrauschenbergamerica Portrays the Ordinary in an Extraordinary Fashion

by Olena Ripnick


By Charles L. Lee

Directed by Anne Bogart
Created and Performed by SITI Company

Set and Costume Design by James Schuette
Lighting Design by Brian H. Scott
Soundscape by Darron L. West
Choreography by Barney O'Hanlon
Properties Design by Jason Szalla
Dramaturg by Tanya Palmer

Cast: Kelly Maurer (Bob's Mom), Ellen Lauren (Susan), Akiko Aizawa (Phil's Girl), Leon Ingulsrud (Phil, the Trucker), J. Ed Araiza (Becker), Stephen Webber (Allen), Barney O'Hanlon (Carl), Danyon Davis (Wilson), Tom Nelis (Bob, the Pizza Boy), Jennifer Taher (Roller Girl)

Performances through October 7 at the LoebDramaCenter
Box Office (617)-547-8300 or online at

What do a chicken, a bathtub on wheels, a girl in a pink bikini, a bagpiper, and a stuffed deer wearing a pink tutu have in common? They're all used to portray the everyday in Charles L. Mee's bobrauschenbergamerica.

Sort of an Our Town for a new generation, bob…is a series of seemingly meaningless and overlapping vignettes that portray American life through the eyes of the visual artist Robert Rauschenberg. And while neither Rauschenberg nor his art appear in the production, bob…succeeds in providing a two hour slice of the ordinary in a rather extraordinary fashion.

An ensemble piece, this production is only as strong as its weakest link; fortunately, there aren't Too many of those. There are no real leads, per say, just a group of people getting together on stage to tell a story—a story that encompasses a rich diversity of race, gender, age, and sexual orientation that in many respects does accurately represent our modern society. The emphasis isn't on the individual, it's on the group; and, of course, the art.

That having been said, there are a few stand-out performances that really make this production. While every cast member of this performance is strong, there are three that particularly shine. Akiko Aizawa, who plays Phil's Girl, is a fresh bundle of energy that keeps the production rolling along; her chemistry with her cast mates is undeniable, and she's a joy to watch perform. Kelly Maurer brings a fantastic performance as Bob's Mom to the stage, capturing down home nostalgic Americana and putting it out there for everyone to see. And finally, J. Ed Araiza, who plays Becker, a disheveled derelict who we first see with a cardboard box, closes the deal with his Walt Whitman address, for lack of a better description, near the end of the production. Araiza draws you in and plays to your emotions in near-perfect fashion.

This production of bob…, created and performed by SITI Company and in residence at the LoebDramaCenter, is also one of the more visually appealing productions I've seen at the A.R.T. Not only is it a genuinely good show, it's also a fun show to watch. From the moment of it's unveiling, James Schuette's appropriately American-inspired set piques your curiosity and, as the show progresses, doesn't fail to deliver. Couple that with some interesting costume choices, a few break out dance numbers, and musical tracks that range from 80's pop to bluegrass, and really, you've got yourself one heck of a hit. And to top it off, Anne Bogart's creative staging is the icing on a wonderfully sweet cake.

Sure it has its flaws here and there—a few instances of off the wall absurdity and a general lack of a plot, among other things—but really, they're just quirks in the grand scheme of life. Overall, bob…is a wonderful meander from the ordinary to the absurd, and definitely worth seeing. This show is a brilliant fusion of the arts; if a painting was staged and accompanied by a soundtrack, bobrauschenbergamerica would be it.

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From This Author Olena Ripnick

Olena Ripnick is a Boston University journalism student and freelance writer whose introduction to the performing arts took place when she was cast as Gretel (read more...)