CET Took CHS By Storm With ‘BOB: A Life In Five Acts’

On Nov. 21, an excited audience awaited the Community Ensemble Theatre’s (CET) first performance of Peter Sinn Nachtrieb’s comedy, “BOB: A Life In Five Acts.” Directed and produced by Quinn Strassel, the show follows Bob (Milo Tucker-Meyer) from his birth at the town’s local White Castle to his years as an old man living at “the worst” rest stop in Mexico, training a flea circus.

On a quest to someday become a “Great Man”, Bob begins his journey with Jeanine (Eleanor Olson), a White Castle employee who adopted him after he was was birthed and abandoned at the restaurant. Traveling across the United States with his adoptive mother, Bob meets a myriad of zany characters along the way, including the love of his life, Amelia (Anabel Cruz), an angry police officer and suitor of Jeanine, Connor (Ben Wier), and his biological parents, animal trainers Gunther and Helen (Louis Hochster and Morgan Harvey). He spends his life searching for his purpose, seeking true greatness, but loses optimism as he ages. As he loses hope, Bob finally finds meaning in the simple joys his life and devotes his later years to training a flea circus in Mexico.

Although CET had incredibly original material at their feet with Nachtrieb’s script, Strassel and the cast of BOB took many interesting leaps to create their own unique production. While the show was intended to be performed by five actors, CET cast over 30 kids and created a defining ensemble dynamic throughout the entire show. However, with 30 students playing what was initially five roles, actors had fewer lines. Still, cast member Isaac Scobey-Thal felt that this wasn’t a problem.

“When you have fifteen lines in the whole show, you literally take every single line and you say it the best way you can, maybe for a laugh or for dramatic effect,” said Scobey-Thal. “Every single line, people made the most of because they knew that was their moment.”

Additionally, the production added music to serve as a soundtrack for the story. Students Oren Levin, Alexandra Cubero-Matos, and Scobey-Thal sang throughout the production with tight harmonies, their guitars and shakers on hand the entire show. The trio performed famous songs including “Dreaming With a Broken Heart” by John Mayer, but also wrote their own compositions that appeared as motives for the play’s themes. One of their compositions, “The Song About Hope”, was performed beautifully by the whole cast as the show came to a close.

The musicians not only strolled across the stage to sing their songs, they also played for the dances between each act. Seniors Sofia Kromis and Eve Kausch choreographed every dance to match the direction Bob’s life was leading him, featuring “A Dance About Hardship”, “A Dance About Love”, “A Dance About Luck”, and “A Dance About Hope”. All cast members danced at one point in their performance track, showcasing the strong versatility of CET’s actors.

The cast and crew of BOB also had the opportunity to meet Nachtrieb, the playwright, following Friday’s performance, as well as the following day at a lunch at Zingerman’s Delicatessen. Nachtrieb received an email from Strassel this past summer about CET’s upcoming production and knowing how different it would be, Nachtrieb hoped he could attend. Fortunately, the timing worked out and Nachtrieb flew in from California to see the performance.

“Coming at the end and after all this work has been put into it and getting to see it, it’s kind of a wonderful thing,” Nachtried said. “That’s one of the fun parts of playwriting is you have something you’ve created and it can live on its own, it doesn’t have to be with you as a physical object, it’s its own little creature that people can adopt for a couple months and then it’s fun to come and see how they took care of it or what they did with it.”

Nachtrieb enjoyed CET’s interpretation of his show and was present at two of the performances. Although the show is a comedy, the cast and crew brought out a lot of the heartfelt and meaningful themes within his script. “BOB: A Life In Five Acts” explored the idea of what it means to be successful, or to achieve “greatness” and provoked questions surrounding that theme rather than giving a clear-cut moral of the story. Nachtrieb was very supportive of CET’s end product.

“It’s also an honor that however many—50-60—people put a lot of energy into something I wrote. It’s kind of humbling and exciting.”

CET experienced a wildly successful run of BOB. Audiences laughed until their abs hurt, hummed along to their favorite songs, and maybe even shed a tear. Whether or not Bob truly became a “Great Man”, everyone had a great time.

Photos courtesy of M Ruth Morris