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It Goes Without Saying

I'm a mime because I'm from Montana. Now Montana is not known as a hotbed of mime activity; but still, it is BIG and QUIET."--- Bill Bowers

Bill Bowers (Photo: David Rodgers)
Bill Bowers is a mime with carpentry skills. He builds windows and doors with the greatest dexterity just so that he can open them, climb through them and use them for an entrance. They evaporate, as he stands before us on the stage where only a stool and a flip chart with the words "True Story" are needed as props.

Bowers speaks! That's pretty startling for a mime. He also startles us with his unassuming wit and winning manner as he regales us with stories and incidents of his life, his career and the role that the recognition and objectification of silence has played in his life as a professional mime.

What…regale us with stories and he's a mime? It's soon clear that Bowers also likes to talk. And be assured that he has quite a lot to say that is touching, funny, sad and worth sharing. Right off the bat, you know that this compact solidly-built performing artist doesn't conform to the image of the average street mime, or as he describes them "scary with rainbow suspenders or a beret".

Movement does play an important and visually enhancing part in Bower's chronicle of his adventures and misadventures in the world. But the personable clean-cut looking man in a sport shirt and slacks also proves himself a sterling monologist/story-teller in the personally affecting style of Lisa Kron and Claudia Sher. He sets up his odyssey with some very funny images of his mid-career gigs as a mechanical man at the opening of a strip mall; performing classical pantomime for the Montana Cattle Association ('I am paid in meat'); as the faceless creature in many episodes on the TV soap All My Children; and as a living sculpture in Princeton and suddenly the victim of explosive diarrhea, with the governor in attendance.

Bowers paints a vivid portrait of his not exactly typical boyhood as it is spent under the Montana moon where hunting for deer was accepted but being "painfully shy, critically effeminate, and covered in acne," was not. His secret relationship with his high school drama club teacher and those with whom he has significant romantic partnerships in his adult life are touchingly integrated into his story. What steers Bower's narrative is his self-effacing confidence accompanied by a warm personality. The most poignant episode, however, covers his tender and loving care for "gorgeous, hilarious" Michael, who is HIV Positive. Their decision to go to Germany to see Michael's family before he dies is also sparked with humor. When a family member asks, "Haven ze fraulein ein New York, Michael," he answers, "Nein, Billie is mein frau." (Editor's Note: This is verbatim, as written by Bowers, who admittedly speaks no German. In case anyone is interested, the correct German would be "Hast du ein freulein in New York?" and the grammatical response would be "Nein, Billie ist meine frau.")

Bower meets another Michael when he is cast in The Scarlet Pimpernel, his first Broadway show. He discovers the hazards of puppetry in The Lion King, when, after 800 performances, he is diagnosed with Tenocynovitis, tendonitis, arthritis, ulna nerve damage. The gently told story comes full circle when Bowers realizes that he did not want to emulate the great Marcel Marceau, as the other students did. "I'm a mime from Montana, not France," he says as he proceeds to capture the Montana moon and capture our affection.

It Goes Without Saying was written by Bowers and developed with director Martha Banta, as a workshop production at the Adirondack Theater Festival (New York) in 2003, and ran as a limited engagement at the Berkshire Theater Festival (Massachusetts) in 2004. A second workshop at the Manhattan Theater Club Studios followed.

It Goes Without Saying
Written and Performed by Bill Bowers
Developed with and directed by Martha Banta
Scenic Design: John McDermott
Costume Design: Michael Growler
Lighting Design: Ed McCarthy
Sound Design: Jill BC Du Boff
Running Time: 1 hour 15 minutes without intermission
Rattlestick Playwright's Theater, 224 Waverly Place (off Seventh Avenue South - between West 11th & Perry Streets)212 - 868 - 4444
Monday at 8 PM, Thursday - Saturday at 8 PM, and Sunday at 3 PM
Tickets: $37.50212 - 868 - 4444 From 8/30/06 to 10/08/06; opening 9/07/06
Reviewed by Simon Saltzman based on August 31st performance .
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