You may ask yourself, how did I get here?
Behind the laughs in "Never Swim Alone" is a play that raises questions about how we men got to be such big, dumb, self-important lugs.
By JOSHUA TANZER
When I was in about first grade, we used to have little-boy arguments that
often devolved into, "My dad can beat up your dad," "Nuh-uh, my dad can
beat up your dad." Looking back now, I laugh at the image of our 30-something
dads coming out on the lawn and duking it out for King Dad of the Neighborhood. Maybe
this was our little-boy idea of what it means to be a man that you're finally big
enough to settle your differences by beating one another up.
Eventually I did grow up, and to my surprise I've never had to beat up anybody's dad. But Canadian playwright Daniel MacIvor wonders, what if all the trappings
of the successful modern man are really just substitute ways of measuring who's the
King Dad, pacifying this primeval urge to beat one another up? So he sets up the
|NEVER SWIM ALONE|
|Written by: Daniel MacIvor.|
Directed by: Timothy P. Jones.
Cast: Douglas Dickerman, John Maria, Susan O'Connor.
Related links: Official site
Picture one of those "Master of the Universe" bond traders from Tom Wolfe's
"Bonfire of the Vanities." Now picture another one. Both clean-cut, perfectly
dressed, good job, attractive wife, good family, firm handshake. But not quite
identical. How can we settle which one is really the better man? Let them fight
it out in a hilarious, sarcastic, jabbing, cutting, boasting, fault-finding mano-a-mano.
"Never Swim Alone" is a 13-round, boxing-style competition between Frank and Bill.
Frank is the guy with the sharper haircut. Bill is the guy whose
suit matches more perfectly. Frank made more money last year. Bill has a
beautiful spread out in the suburbs. Frank has a thing going with a young
receptionist. Bill at least knows where his wife was last night. Frank's
taller. Bill's thinner. Frank's stronger. Bill's a little less of a jerk. May the better
Each round is refereed sternly, sometimes disapprovingly, by a
woman in a swimsuit (Susan O'Connor). She's a girl maybe just the memory of
a girl whom both men knew when they were
boys at summer camp together and who may have something to do with triggering
the rivalry that these two men have engaged in since childhood.
The play raises a lot of questions about the trappings of '90s-era bull-market masculinity job, jeep, house, clothes, haircut, stock options, wife, mistress, dog, body image and ritual violence. (If there's one glaring omission in "Never Swim Alone," it's that no cigars are smoked during the production. Thank god.) If you're a man watching this, you may ask yourself: How much of our humanity did we trade in when we bought this image of the modern superman? If you're a woman, you may ask yourself: How do we put up with these clowns?
Or you may just blithely enjoy the ride, as Maria and Dickerman cut each other playfully and then viciously down to size in a show that demands both
abundant testosterone and split-second comic timing. It all works brilliantly, and if you don't agree with me, e-mail me your dad's address. I think my dad can whup him.
|OCTOBER 26, 1999|
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