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MORE FUN THAN BOWLING, Ranch Theater Company, at National Pastime Theater. This is the second production I’ve seen of Steven Dietz’s play about a decent small-town bowling-alley proprietor whose wives have an unfortunate habit of dying in freak accidents. But even in this earnest, well-intentioned staging by an enthusiastic young company, I have difficulty finding the work’s appeal.
The story revolves around Jake Tomlinson, his ill-fated wives and cheerful if lonely teenage daughter, and the mysterious gunman who appears to be stalking him. Dietz strives for a quirky, infectious folksiness in depicting the denizens of Turtle Rapids, where wedding celebrations are highlighted by moonlight bowling competitions and Conway Twitty plays in every jukebox. But though the playwright displays a knack for inventive bowling lingo, much of the aw-shucks cutesiness comes off as strained, and the characters’ philosophizing, which blends happy-go-lucky fatalism with seize-the-day gusto, is labored, often delivered directly to the audience in reflective monologues. These would probably work better on their own in auditions, but here they halt an already slow-moving work all too reminiscent of the town of Turtle Rapids, where precious little happens.
The Ranch Theater Company’s production–directed, produced, and designed by Craig Himes–accurately mimics the leisurely, contemplative tone of Dietz’s play: this show has all the drama of a friendly bowling match where no one’s bothering to keep score.