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It Goes Without Saying

Bill Bowers' solo show about his life as a mime is refreshing, inspired, and instantly likeable.

By New York City
Bill Bowers in It Goes Without Saying
(© David Rodgers)
Bill Bowers in It Goes Without Saying
(© David Rodgers)
Shortly after pretending to pass through a number of non-existent traditional doors and a window in his instantly likeable, often inspired show It Goes Without Saying at the Rattlestick Theatre, Bill Bowers amusingly announces what's just become obvious: He's a mime. He says it right out loud. The revelation will be a load off the minds of people who don't especially like mimes -- a group of which I consider myself one. For people who more than tolerate mimes or even outright adore them, it also may be a refreshing approach. That's because his sudden admission signals that what's about to follow isn't going to be a mime show so much as a show about mime.

In this autobiographical solo piece, Bowers tells the story of an effeminate and taunted Missoula, Montana boy who staged Barbie parades and heard his calling by late adolescence. He jokes that after heading to New York and leaving his puzzled but supportive parents and five siblings behind, he took scads of odd mime assignments. Over the years, he's pretended to be any number of mechanical men. One job that might have been worth seeing -- just for the yuks -- had Bowers silently recounting The History of Towing at the American Tow Truck Convention.

Flipping a pad featuring what could be considered chapter titles, Bowers chats amiably about a number of subjects, including the cameo he had in the film Two Weeks Notice that landed him in the make-up room between Hugh Grant and Donald Trump. He gabs about the seven years he traveled the land in tights as Slim Goodbody. He becomes serious recalling a journey to an East German town with a longtime lover in the last stages of an AIDS-related affliction. Throughout his recollections -- which also include a disappointing study program with Marcel Marceau himself -- the stocky, quick-to-chuckle Bowers remains appealingly candid. He also does a number of impersonations -- such as his reticent parents and his lover's stern mother -- that confirm his talent as an actor as well as a mime.

What distinguishes this show from just another one-man confession is not just its mime adornments. Usually, the implied message of mime is that words are unnecessary: Life's joys and dilemmas can be expressed strictly through actions. However, Bowers has a different take, and it's kinda brilliant. He sees mime as a metaphor for the many everyday situations in which people find themselves unable to speak. Repeatedly in his experiences, he runs into imposed silence. As a child, he grew up in a family where feelings were not expressed. Much later, his dying lover suffering from an inoperable brain tumor, lost the ability to speak. Along his way, Bowers brings in any number of other examples to make the point his title hints at.

At the end of Bowers' show, which is smoothly directed by Martha Banta and given a sensitive Jill BC Du Boff sound design, he allows himself a mime sequence. Early in his summary, Bowers talked about the Montana moon that meant so much to him when he was growing up. In the coda segment, he ropes that moon, pulls it to him, grasps it for a few seconds, and sends it back to the heavens. It's another metaphor, this time about grabbing and following one's dream. Bowers' silent illustration will make even the harshest mime critic reconsider his attitude about the art form.


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