by Jason Booker
Mark Shyzer’s Fishbowl is a wonder: dramatically challenging, remarkably funny, excellently performed. Shyzer has created four characters for the show, the crotchety old man ridiculing his comatose neighbour in a nursing home, the emo teen Ravyn who rejects his middle-class privilege name, Francis, the cruise-ship cougar complete with alcoholism and the bookish and lisping, physics genius Esther with her pet goldfish. Not only are these characters compelling and clearly delineated through their words but Shyzer and his director, Evalyn Perry, create physical stances and postures to help define each of the players, and each begins their journey in a unique costume. After one rotation through the players, Shyzer performs the rest of the show in neutral black attire and, after a few character cycles – always in the same order – the audience comes to know each persona well enough to determine which is speaking, even in the dark. The show is clever, tight, well-paced and thought-provoking. Tying the four characters together in unexpected ways toward the end, the show is more than just four people talking to the audience, it takes on a life much bigger; it tackles physics and theories of interconnectivity, warping time and space. This is a show – one of the rare Fringe shows – that has included design as a crucial element from the clever costuming and sound design, to Oz Weaver’s strip of light at the back of the stage and specials for the fish, hanging in his bowl. Fishbowl is a work many years in the making (admittedly I am familiar with an earlier edition as well) but the work is fully matured and quite hilarious, touring across the country this summer and should not be missed.