BWW Review: ALMIGHTY BOB at Wichita Community Theatre
For their second show of the 2019-2020 season, Wichita Community Theatre presents Tom Mula's Almighty Bob. The plot, simple yet fun, centers around Bob, a fresh-faced nursing home patient to Dr. Wally's care home after Bob's daughter Karen drops him off for a trial run visit. Bob, however, thinks that he is God. Taking place in a homey, sunny "quiet room" of a small, pleasant, well-tended assisted-living facility, extraordinary, miraculous and comedic things begin to happen and take shape throughout the production directed by John Reel. Almighty Bob is currently running October 16-27 at 258 N. Fountain in College Hill, Wednesday through Saturday at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 2:00 p.m
The cast and crew are solely comprised of community volunteers but don't let their humanitarian status fool you, because most handled their tasks in the show with strong professionalism. Take further attention that Wichita Community Theatre plays are presented in copyrighted fashion as to give true, re-created production value right here in Wichita. For instance, this play is done through the courtesy of the Harden Curtis Kristen Riley Agency in New York which adds further pressure to the artistic team and performers to deliver Mula's play in which it is originally to be intended through both scenic design and dialogue. (Mula is an award-winning actor and playwright with credits from Drury Lane and Goodman Theatres in Chicago.) Luckily, the cast and crew of Almighty Bob complete the feat with saving grace and dignity.
Leading the cast is Joe Parrish as Bob, a former and retired community theatre actor. Parrish is simply divine as he scoots around the care home in a wheelchair quoting Shakespeare from time to time earning most of all the important plot dialogue to advance themes of mortality, eternal life and even incontinence. Some of my favorite quotes of his were, "We are such stuff as dreams are made of" or "You forgive yourself is the real miracle." Though there may have been times where commitment to the Shakespeare energy and comedy might have lacked, Parrish made up for it in tenderhearted moments opposite love interest and widow Claire played by Joanie Ginest particularly when comforting here to the tune 'You are my sunshine.' Ginest as Claire was a true delight as the New York Times crossword puzzle and strip poker enthused dweller who had the opportunity to act out a lovely monologue in the same scene about getting older and losing her husband named Henry and becoming widowed starting off the Jimmie Davis and Charles Mitchell song. She later gets another joyful Tanya Tucker refrain from 1973 called "Delta Dawn" for an audience sing along talent show which will leave you contemplating that mansion in the sky.
Playing Bob's overly concerned caretaker of a daughter named Karen was Mary Tush Green. A recent recipient of the Mary Jane Teall Award for best actress in All My Sons also done at WCT, Tush Green had just the right amount of important dialogue as Parrish remarking on the healthcare system in America and the challenges of insurance, moving residents around the nursing home system, and the crooked company brochures and sales tactics of nursing homes while additionally remarking of her own father, "He sometimes thinks he's God, sometimes he's right" reflecting back to the title. While all of this was done with believability, the age difference between her and her love interest Dr. Wally was a bit questionable.
Dr. Wally was played by Levi Nord. Nord aged himself in appearance to play the leading male, nursing home manager whom had slapstick comedy amidst the dangers of the care home being shut down by the seedy, red tie businessman Mr. Carmichael (Kevin Sowers) for a Krispy Kreme store instead. It's not till the very end that Nord gets to really shine executing a riveting, Shakespearean monologue in act two scene two for the talent show among Providence residents and staff Elisa Balleau, Anna Bohr, Jewell Martinez, Lee Ann Mulford, and Jane Tanner, all of which were committed to being a chorus of whacky, sedated seniors.
As Dr. Wally's nurse assistant is Theresa Dombroski in the role of Colleen. Dombroski has wonderful moments throughout with well-paced line delivery, voice and diction leading up to another monologue pleading to the great, almighty Bob asking to come home and rid herself of the troubled problems of earthy existence. Finally, Leo Larson lands another dream role in Joey JoJo--a pseudo angel of death. Dressed in all black with gothic emo eye makeup, Larson is devilish in appearance and smarmy in demeanor helping Bob cross into the afterlife for the finale.
Costumes by Jane Tanner portrayed profession and character traits. Sound by Anna Bohr aided quick scene transitions with songs such as "At the Hop" or "I heard it through the grapevine" or even "what if God was one of us?" Lighting design by Robert Ryder gave the feel of a hospital atmosphere but was ominous at the end for tricking Carmichael in order for justice to prevail but then uplifting before the final cross of the stage for Parrish and Larson indicating heavenly admission. The set and direction by John Reel, however, is most notably worth mentioning. Not only did he create a sturdy box set, mostly peach in color, he most importantly was able to show relationships among the actors getting them to commit to script and story. The show was yet again another wise show selection about mortality following similar themes seen in the musical Blood Brothers. This show will leave you thinking, if only we had a care home for theatre people. Now that would be entertaining!
What: Almighty Bob
Where: 258 N. Fountain, Wichita, KS 67208
When: October 16-27 2019
Cost: $15 Adults, $13 students/seniors military
For reservations call 316-686-1282