Girl in the Goldfish Bowl
Morris Panych? The Canadian playwright’s name may sound familiar.
Panych specializes in dark, quirky comedies, and the B Street Theatre has staged three of his plays, starting with Vigil (featuring Tim Busfield and Boots Martin, in ’97), followed by Lawrence and Holloman (’98) and Earshot (’01).
B Street undoubtedly considered Panych’s Girl in the Goldfish Bowl, which premiered in Canada in ’02, but the first Western U.S. production is by plucky Main Street Theatre Works, an upscale community group in Amador County. Their artistic director, Susan McCandless, saw the play up north, and she’s doggedly pursued the rights for years. (And she’s not averse to borrowing B Street strategy; last summer, she staged Escanaba in da Moonlight, which the B Street’s mounted three times.)
Girl in the Goldfish Bowl is set in coastal British Columbia in ’62, at the time of the Cuban missile crisis. Viewpoint character Iris (played by grown-up actress Amanda Aldrich, with her hair in girlish pigtails) is a precocious, motor-mouthed 11-year-old, who uses big words, gets in trouble with the nuns at school and sees through dysfunctional adults all too well.
There’s her father Owen (Earl Victorine), an affable loser who pads around in pajamas and is fascinated by geometry. There’s her mother Sylvia (Bonnie Antonini), a bored spouse who keeps threatening to walk out on her husband. There’s Miss Rose (Shaleen Schmutzer-Smith), a boozy boarder who smells of fish because of her job in a cannery. And there’s the mysterious Mr. Lawrence (Dan Featherston), who the pre-teen Iris believes to be the reincarnation of her dead goldfish.
This production’s community actors bring energy to their performances—they’re likeable and fun to watch. They aren’t always quite as precise as the Equity cast you’d find in a B Street show . . . which is to say that while many laugh lines in this production connect, a few others don’t. But overall, the “oddness” of this very situational comedy comes through. And the Kennedy Mine Amphitheatre remains a favorite location to enjoy a summer show (even if an “indoor-oriented” comedy like this one doesn’t derive any direct benefits from the moonlight and evening air).