It Goes Without Saying
nytheatre.com review by Lauren Marks
September 1, 2006
Bill Bowers's aptly named one man show, It Goes without Saying, is an autobiographical piece chronicling his life and times as a mime. The show begins with Bowers as a young man in Montana, follows his adventures becoming well-known mime spokesperson Slim Goodbody, and details his experience as a gay man in New York living in the throes of the AIDS epidemic. Bowers's candor is shockingly generous, and he allows audiences into every part of his life, professionally and unprofessionally, while presenting a show that maintains a strong sense of comedy and purpose.
Bowers opens the show saying, "I'm a mime because I'm from Montana. Not that Montana is a hot-bed of mime." From the very onset, he establishes his skill as a performer in being able to simultaneously relay the honest details of his life, while distancing himself from them with performance and humor.
Beside him he keeps an easel, which he turns page by page, each equipped with a new title, each naming individual "chapters" of his life. As he attempts to make sense of a lifetime of experiences, he sorts through a childhood of deeply Western stoicism, filled with unsaid impulses, desires, and abuse. Upon leaving Montana, Bowers finds he has escaped his quiet life at home, and exchanged it for an equally silent career. He details, with no small degree of hilarity, his history as a "freelance" mime—one who performs at mall openings, corporate events, and even alongside the New Jersey turnpike.
The sheer volume of information that Bowers fits into the work is mind-boggling, condensing the whole of his life into a mere 75 minutes. There is something sad, and almost unsatisfying, about Bowers's willingness to edit his life in such a way, since every bit/chapter of material seems rich enough to warrant its own show. However, there is also something quite fitting about that, considering the wordless nature of most of Bowers's career. As a mime, one gets the sense that he certainly has something to say, but that any kind of Proustian undertaking is simply to miss the essence of Bowers himself.
The set, costumes, and lights all stay relatively minimal, which supports Bowers's ability as an unusually self-sufficient performer. The sound design, however, goes a bit astray, seeming often both ill-fitting and distracting. Director and developer Martha Banta does a service to Bowers by keeping the piece essentially quite simple. And set designer John McDermott provides an unexpectedly lovely final scene and tableau to leave the audience with at the end of the piece.
This show is almost irrefutably enjoyable. It is jocular, and unusually energetic, in spite of much of the material being both dark and disturbing. Bowers's lightheartedness is contagious, and his earnestness seems not in the slightest bit false. His creativity and perseverance, as a performer and person, have strangely influential powers (as is befitting as performer of his type). We are taken to believing whatever he puts forth. As an audience, we begin to see as he sees, and to believe simply because he does. This show is strongly recommended to those who love or hate mimes, those who love or hate autobiographical theatre, and to all who are in need of a good laugh.