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'Swimming in Shallows' opening SLAC's season

Comedy is about being happy — and features talking shark

Joyce Cohen, left, Jeanette Puhich, Brenda Sue Cowley, Robert Scott Smith and Christopher Glade will perform in Salt Lake Acting Company's regional premiere of Adam Bock's "Swimming in the Shallows."
Joyce Cohen, left, Jeanette Puhich, Brenda Sue Cowley, Robert Scott Smith and Christopher Glade will perform in Salt Lake Acting Company's regional premiere of Adam Bock's "Swimming in the Shallows."
Scott G. Winterton, Deseret Morning News

Salt Lake Acting Company is opening its 2005-06 season with an award-winning comedy by Adam Bock, a playwright who will:

— Be in Salt Lake City toward the end of the run of "Swimming in the Shallows."

— Bring with him an all-new script, "The Thugs," which will be featured in SLAC's New Play Sounding Series on Oct. 10.

— And has already accepted a commission to write an original 10-minute script for inclusion in SLAC's upcoming multi-play compilation, "The Water Project."

David Mong, SLAC's resident literary manager, is directing "Swimming in the Shallows," which he describes as "a play about human beings trying to be happy. That's about as basic as you can get, which is why it's so funny."

Oh, and one of the characters is a talking shark.

"It's an interesting piece by one of the most interesting writers we've seen in a long, long time," Mong said. "It's about the beginning of love, the middle of love and, possibly, the end of love." He added that "there's not a single swear word in it — but it does involve two same-sex relationships and a tiny bit of canoodling on stage."

Mong's cast includes Joyce Cohen as Barb, a married woman who has read a Reader's Digest article about Buddhist monks owning only eight things, so she begins some serious downsizing. Her husband, Bob (played by Don Glover), may be one of the things she's considering getting rid of. (Glover played a trout in SLAC's 2002 production of "Cowboys, Cabbies and the Tree of the Weeping Virgin," though he didn't get promoted to "shark" in Bock's comedy.)

Jeanette Puhich, who is featured in the newly released film, "Mobsters & Mormons," plays Carla Carla, whose parents (for some unknown reason) stuck her with the same two names.

Carla Carla is in a relationship with Donna (Brenda Sue Cowley), who is pressuring Carla Carla to formalize things in a commitment ceremony, but Carla Carla is not too sure about this because Donna smokes. But maybe it's more than the smoking; maybe she just doesn't like herself enough to fully like someone else.

Then there's Nick (Robert Scott Smith), a young gay man who lives a shallow life and never lets anyone get close to him. He smuggles cigarettes in to Donna where she works — an aquarium — and takes notice of a handsome shark (Christopher Glade).

The shark's job description is: swim, swim, swim, look out for the glass, swim, swim, swim. He has also sold Avon products door-to-door.

Mong noted that there are also three dream sequences as the action progresses — "kind of like when the characters get tired, they take naps and have these anxiety dreams."

But he promises that audiences won't have any excuses to take naps. "This piece goes very fast, literally. Bock has written it to tear right along."

"Swimming in the Shallows" runs about an hour and 15 minutes with no intermission. It premiered in 1999 in Boston, and a later production, by the Shotgun Players in the San Francisco area, won Bay Area awards for best production, best ensemble and best original script.

Mong added that "Swimming in the Shallows" was first read at SLAC a couple of seasons back as part of that year's New Play Sounding Series, and the actors (most of whom regrouped for the current cast) loved it. "That cast already knew each other, so there was a bond of friendship already from the beginning when we started rehearsals."

BOCK'S NEWEST SCRIPT, "The Thugs," will have a free staged reading on Oct. 10 at 7 p.m., as the first in this season's New Play Sounding Series.

Bock will be here for the reading and participate in a feedback session, when viewers will have a chance to offer their feelings about the play.

Mong said "it's about temp workers in a big law firm in a high-rise and no one is certain about their jobs and there are rumors of a killer in the building. No one tells them anything because they're low on the totem pole."

If you go . . .

What: "Swimming in the Shallows"

Where: Salt Lake Acting Company, 168 W. 500 North

When: Tuesday through Oct. 16

How much: $18-$33.50

Phone: 363-7522 or 355-2787


Also: Post-play discussion, Sept. 25, about 4:30 p.m.