Review: BOB: A LIFE IN FIVE ACTS Gives Light to the Absurdity of the Human Experience at Firecracker Productions

Bob: A Life in Five Acts Comes to Firecracker Productions in Houston, TX

By: Apr. 25, 2022
Review: BOB: A LIFE IN FIVE ACTS Gives Light to the Absurdity of the Human Experience at Firecracker Productions
Abraham Zapata
Photo by Pin Lim

There's an unmistakable sadness to Peter Sinn Nachtrieb's Bob: A Life in Five Acts. A young boy has his head filled with expectations of his own excellence. As he grows up those expectations are either destroyed or morphed until they are unrecognizable. Tragedy follows disappointment which follows failure and so on. What makes the show stand out is the playwright's choice to present Bob's life story in the form of an absurdist comedy. When tragedy strikes, as it does suddenly and often, it always comes in the form of something completely ridiculous.

It's sad when Bob loses a loved one but the way they go is often hilarious. One of the early signs of the play's tone happened when a woman described an absurd event that left her unable to have children. I won't spoil what it was, but it made the audience laugh very hard. In a way, the play invites us all to laugh at the absurdity of our own pain. Our personal tragedies feel important to us but they're really just tiny things in the grand scheme of the world.

The four ensemble actors did a commendable job portraying a cornucopia of characters that range from heartfelt to cartoons. A couple of standouts include a dry butler, a woman who constantly changes her name, and a disgraced animal trainer. The bulk of the show stands on Abraham Zapata as Bob. Zapata has an incredible voice. His vocal performance reflected much care he puts into its use. When he portrays a school-aged Bob he performs with a lighter vocality meant to represent the character's wide-eyed appreciation of all the knowledge the world has to give him. The show is so consistently silly that it would have been easy for him to play a caricature of a child. Instead, he used his voice to bring a softness to the scene. Sitting in the audience, I might have looked out of place. Everyone else was laughing at the comedy, but I was too busy listening to his voice. He convinced me that Bob was having a genuine human experience.

I walked away very impressed with Bob: A Life in Five Acts. It would have been a mistake to play into the comedy too much. Instead, the ensemble let the script do its job while they filled in the lives of their characters. It was a great crowd-pleaser. Profound, funny, and thought-provoking. At its best moments, it made me think of my own life, my growth, and my expectations. It also made me think how funny it all is looking back.