By Travis Facette
52 min | Comedy, Drama, Solo | PG
Creator and performer Kevin Reid takes on several roles in this solo show, which tells the story of an elderly veteran and his lost locket. It’s clear that Reid is a competent actor, and his portrayal of Norman’s best friend Papini, a self-aware Italian stereotype, is particularly charming. Norman Bisbee Goes to War is, however, held back by unsteady writing and characterization.
Some aspects of the show definitely stand out. The sound design (by Leslie Cserepy) is simple but quite evocative, using the ambient noise of restaurants and night-time city streets to easily transport the audience. Though it hops back and forth through space and time, using flashbacks and changes in perspective, Norman Bisbee never loses the audience, and it weaves the threads of its characters’ lives together in a way that feels illuminating rather than forced. When playing multiple characters in one scene, rather than switching rapidly back and forth, Reid sometimes plays out the entire conversation on one side and then the other. This sketching-out and then filling-in of the past feels clever instead of confusing, for the most part, and it characterizes the entire play.
Unfortunately, the plot itself is fairly predictable, with a clever bit of writing here and there, and the characters are somewhat flat archetypes—the working girl with the heart of gold, the nasty young gangster, the elderly veteran with one last mission. Being straightforward is not necessarily a bad thing, but Norman Bisbee never quite takes that extra step to tug at the heart strings or tackle a more ambitious theme. Reid’s show has heart and shows promise, but it left me wanting something more.
Norman Bisbee Goes to War by Kevin Reid is playing at the ODD Box (2 Daly Avenue, 2nd floor) on Saturday, June 18 at 2:00 p.m.; Sunday, June 19 at 7:30 p.m.; Tuesday, June 21 at 6:30 p.m.; Friday, June 24 at 11:00 p.m.; and Saturday, June 25 at 4:00 p.m.