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Review: While We Were Bowling Has Heart to ‘Spare’

Aurora Fox Denver theatre theater He Said She SaidWhile We Were Bowling is a quirky nostalgia piece that centers around (what else?) a wholesome all-American family in Buffalo, one boy and one girl. But it quickly stretches beyond a stereotype once you add in an unhealthy obsession with bowling, a taste for rebellion, and a stray African-American boy who came by to delivery a TV and never left.  

Aurora Fox Offers Eccentric Nostalgia

HE SAID: I went expecting a fun family nostalgia piece centered around bowling – mostly fluff entertainment with a little drama thrown in for good measure. Boy, was I wrong. This flashback to the 50’s does have a lot of laughs but it also has a lot of heart. It’s not about reminiscing but truly is a story about family struggles and self-discovery in the face of societal restrictions. While the story focuses on certain characters, each role has a solid story of their own providing strong arcs for everyone in the show. I got more than I bargained for and, for me, it was a pleasant turn of events.

While We Were Bowling, Aurora Fox, Denver, Theatre, Theater, reviewsSHE SAID: I was also pleasantly surprised — being unfamiliar with the piece, I really enjoyed how the plot became more and more layered and the characters gained more and more depth as the show went on. By the end of the show, the importance of the time period has faded, and the audience is left with the reminder that we all have some struggles, we’re all haunted a bit by the past and have somehow forgotten things we used to know about ourselves.

Women Take Top Prize in ‘Bowling’

HE SAID: We are guided through the story by the daughter, Lydia McLaughlin, wonderfully played by Misha Johnson. She had the hard task of bouncing in and out of the action while she guided us through the story. Oh, and she had to speak Russian in a number of scenes. She took on a lot and did a fabulous job. Perhaps the burden of the show lied on the shoulders of Megan Van de Hay, as the mother, who journeys from repressed housewife to empowered woman and does it with every nuance I could ask for.

While We Were Bowling, Aurora Fox, Denver, Theatre, Theater, reviewsSHE SAID: Johnson and Van de Hay bore the weight of this show on their formidable (yet dainty) shoulders. I really appreciated the truth that each of them brought to their roles. Johnson also flipped back and forth between two different ages, and while the older character was a bit more comfortable for her, she still had enough youthful pep to pull off the memory of her teenaged self. The men in the show were not quite as striking (pun intended) but they accomplished their part of the storytelling with room to spare (pun especially intended). Noah Lee Jordan provided appropriately awkward comic relief as the adopted Jeremy, and Thadd Krueger was artfully conflicted as Brent McLaughlin, although he read a little old for the teenaged role.

Design, If Not Bowling, Uses Proper Form

HE SAID: Technically, the designs worked well. I appreciated some of the smaller details, like the wall outlets in the set (a detail often forgotten) and the TV effects in the lighting. One nitpick I had about the show had to do with their bowling form. For at least some of the characters, who take bowling more seriously than anything else, they would use a technically proper form when bowling so to see them using hops and skips undercut the character somewhat.

While We Were Bowling, Aurora Fox, Denver, Theatre, Theater, ReviewsSHE SAID: I really appreciated the scenic design, which took us smoothly back and forth between the McLaughlin’s living room and the bowling alley. The living room was interesting to look at (my eyes were continually drawn to the bowling trophies, and director (Bev Newcomb-Madden) used the space well throughout. The costume design (by Nicole Harrison) was attractive and appropriate for the period of the piece. Overall the piece was really cohesive, I could tell the designers, the director and the actors had really collaborated to make a very unique and thoughtful world.

While We Were Bowling Unexpectedly Touching and Funny

THEY SAID: While We Were Bowling straddles a quirky, lovable line between a funny and a touching evening. A surprisingly detailed set design and commendable performances throughout the piece, especially in the two female roles, there is a lot to keep the show engaging through the end. The story isn’t quite like anything you’re expecting, but if you roll with it (pun still intended), you’ll find yourself at the end of a very special lane.

While We Were Bowling presented by the Aurora Fox plays through May 8 . Click the banner below for tickets and more information.

Denver Theatre Theater

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