Actor/Author/“Marcel Marceau-card-carrying Mime.” Bill Bowers has performed and led workshops in all 50 states and 25 countries …in school gymnasiums, homeless shelters, parking lots and at The White House.
In St. Ignatius, Montana, he tried to bring the wonder of silent expression to a room full of uncomprehending Amish kids. In Warsaw, Poland, he offered a show about growing up gay to a population that for seven days set fire to an art installation comprised of a rainbow of flowers signifying peace and acceptance. In Atlanta, Georgia, he was stranded in his car 21 hours between shows during the city’s 2014 freak snowstorm – wherein he received a Kafkaesque overture of aid and was grateful for an empty coffee cup.
Bowers is the kind of man you’d value as a friend – creative, smart, curious, wry, and kind. When a crowded St. Louis bus is stymied by a confused passenger in a wheelchair, he not only gets him out of the vehicle, but serendipitously ends up sharing something of a mystical experience. Unpredictable communication with a 17 year-old Macedonian becomes something of an O. Henry story. (There are moments of sheer poetry.) In Billings, Montana, his workshop is attended by a 15 pound bunny rabbit named Rocky who emails after the event. He writes back. This wonderfully surprising chapter goes on several years.
The date and location of each show are projected onto three screens in a charmingly naïve manner (Projection Designer – Bryce Cutler) while Bowers uses only rearranged chairs as his set. There are moments of mime, but in this most recent presentation, the thespian acts as raconteur rather than full-out practitioner of his art. One of his shorter mime pieces would’ve been not only welcome, but for those unfamiliar, illuminating.
Bowers show has been produced in Amsterdam by The Happy Hooker – yes, that one – with a less than positive outcome except for the entertaining tale itself. An old codger in Choteau, Montana tells him “kids need to see there’s other ways to communicate than hittin’ and screamin.” His Worley, Ohio piece took place in a nudist colony.
There’s more. And every word is true. Stay a minute after Bowers’s bow and you’ll see photos of many of these events on the screens. The evening is warm and captivating, a reminder that in these difficult, cynical times, sheer humanity can, at least parenthetically, win. Bowers is a latter day Will Rogers.
Director Martha Banta does a lovely job. Action is visually fluid, emotions subtly expressed. Pacing is pitch perfect.
Photos by Maria Baranova-Suzuki
All For One Theater presents
All Over the Map
Written and Performed by Bill Bowers
Directed by and Developed with Martha Banta
The Lion Theater
410 West 42nd Street
Through May 7, 2016