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May 30, 2014
Review: Bubba

DSC_2390There is a good deal to say for Michael Thomas Walker's one-man play, "Bubba", not the least of which is how Walker manages to be true to the South without rendering it cartoon-ish. As the actor/playwright takes the audience through his journey home for his father's funeral in Huntsville, Alabama -- and the inevitable journeys of discovery, self and non-self, along the way -- he brings to life various folks of this landscape, and it is all real.  They are implacably Southern and therefore inevitably comic, but they are authentic, all the way. Walker is true to the oddly feminine demeanor of staunchly heterosexual old Southern men, just as he rightly presents the surreal reality of how well-versed in medical practices, and perhaps too familiar with treatments and medications, Southerners are.  Walker's story here is tailor-made to descend into the swamp of self-indulgence and unresolved boyhood angst, yet it keeps its shoes clean.  And there is as well the simple pleasure of listening to Walker's fine tenor in a few songs wisely limited to a few; they nicely punctuate the narrative, help to keep it swamp-free, and are just plain enjoyable to hear.

Be warned: anticipate no particularly stunning revelations here. Walker opens closet doors and finds a few skeletons, but the bones don't (sorry) rattle you. And that is just fine -- the ordinary works very well as a platform for good theater, and infanticide, chariots, and prompts of ghostly revenge, while great fun, are by no means necessary.  The point of theater -- any theater -- is to share meaning, and "Bubba" accomplishes this through the tame strategy of a little personal excavation. His story may be next door to your own story, but that makes it all the more genuine, and makes the meaning all the more felt.  More than anything, let Walker be praised for a fidelity to the South that is rare and, to anyone with real experience of that odd landscape, moving.

Through June 4 at the Paradise Factory.

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Written by: Jack Mauro
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