Fans of "The O.C." might be interested to learn that Logan Marshall-Green, the guy who last season played "Trey Atwood" (Ryan's brother) is currently playing a shark in Second Stage Theatre's new Uptown production of Swimming in the Shallows, currently in previews. The two teenage girls sitting next to me certainly seemed to be excited by such fame in their midst; they sat on the edge of their chairs whenever he was on stage, and I think I heard them giggle a few times.
Yes, Marshall-Green really plays a shark, the kind with a fin on its back, but he's also a shark who finds time to leave the aquarium and go on a date with a nervous guy who has a history of falling for (and sleeping with) men who don't call him back. There are two other slightly more traditional couples: a pair of young women living together and fighting over whether to get married to each other (or committed, if you're not quite sure if it's legal yet in Rhode Island), and an older husband and wife whose relationship is on the rocks. And whose stage presence seems to be a bit lopsided: You get through half the play thinking he's going to be an entirely off-stage character, until midway through he appears bearing a big sign that declares his name: "Bob." Which I guess is necessary so you don't confuse him with his wife, whose name is "Barb," pronounced "Bawb" in their New England accent.
The play made me laugh at times, but probably not enough, because its tone for about three-quarters of the action feels like a skit -- and at its worst -- a bad SNL skit. There's a lot of spoken-to-the-audience title cards -- "Tuesday," "How to Fall in Love," "How to Pick a Ring" -- followed by one-line or one-joke scenes. There are serious moments and supposedly dramatic moments, but the characters only seemed to have two voice volumes -- regular and really loud -- so they just seemed more like caricatures. I almost felt like I was watching some latter-day version of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown."
So the title implies that while the characters are "swimming in the shallows," there are deeper currents going on. The problem is, I didn't feel those deeper currents. The older married woman is aspiring to simplify her life by being like some Buddhist monks she read about who only have eight possessions in the world. This is supposed to be a more surface/shallow way of expressing the lack of satisfaction in her marriage. She says dumping all her things or giving them away to charity makes her feel lighter and more free, but what does she replace them with? What greater goal or need or desire or journey? She doesn't say. So while she's going for simplicity, I in the audience was just left with an empty feeling and the vision of an empty character.
Meanwhile, you have the absurdity of a young guy falling in love with a shark in a tank, who we're then supposed to believe is a good romantic prospect after their kissing spell on the beach and his call (!) the next day. Once again, where's the depth?
The play left me with a predictable ending (even Mamma Mia! at least plays with your expectations), no surprises, not much development, no greatly satisfying resolution, and a final line about cake that doesn't ring much of a bell with any other theme in the show.
My verdict? The title is all too literally appropriate.