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Playwright Daniel MacIvor made a splash last season with his sleeper hit Never Swim Alone. And Susan O'Connor, who had a small part in that show, now has a much expanded role--the only role, in fact--in MacIvor's newest piece, the solo drama See Bob Run. Here, O'Connor plays Bob (short for Roberta, but no one calls her Roberta), a young woman hitchhiking her way eastward. Where she is running to, we don't know; what she is running from, we eventually find out.

Bob begins by telling us a metaphorical fairy tale that paints her father as a saint and her mother as an evil witch while graphically illustrating that Bob's low self-esteem stems from her very conception. It's a rather clever device that throws the audience off a bit, giving MacIvor a chance to steadily reveal that the truth is different from what we've been told and from what Bob herself thinks it is. In fact, Bob is more confused than anyone; she is a bubbly, chatty girl prone to sullen spells that soon lead to psychotic episodes. As she talks to the various drivers who pick her up, reminiscing about her childhood and her life back home, the ugly truth slowly comes to the surface.

The action unfolds in two ways, alternating between Bob's one-sided conversations with the drivers and 'confessional' moments wherein she speaks directly to the audience. At first, she talks about how she likes to listen to music and loves to dance. She tells of her best friend Tamara and of meeting Timmy Prince, her now ex-boyfriend. But her sunny tone grows darker and her happy exterior soon crumbles, and she begins to ramble about how things are only good when they're "pretend." The cause of Bob's trouble is revealed when she starts telling stories about the "big, weird animal" that lived in her closet.

Sexual abuse is a well-traveled topic in modern drama, but this play is more than just another childhood trauma story. MacIvor avoids many of the potential traps and, through Bob, gives us a complex portrait of the many effects of abuse. The abuse suffered by Bob has left her unable to be loved and in turn makes her, too, an abuser; for Bob, intimacy is a nightmare that leads her to violence. But the way she perceives and rationalizes that nightmare by attempting to live in a pretend world gives the play an added spin.

O'Connor is entirely believable--sometimes irritatingly so, sometimes frighteningly so--in the role, both air-headedly girlish and heart-rendingly tortured. She gradually works the character into such a fit that the unhappy ending feels well-earned; MacIvor has shown an admirable restraint that allows it to be surprising without seeming gratuitously shocking. This restraint, exercised throughout the play, is complemented by Timothy P. Jones' smooth and simple direction. Jones keeps everything flowing nicely, punctuating the vignettes with brief blackouts during which O'Connor moves around the stage, sometimes sitting in a chair to signify a car, other times coming downstage to address the audience.

See Bob Run is a well-crafted, well-acted piece of theater, yet it somehow doesn't hold the audience tightly in its grip. Like Never Swim Alone, this show moved from a smaller space to an Off-Broadway house, and that may have been a bad move. The most compelling one-person shows can work in a large house, but See Bob Run might have benefited from a more confined space. Bob's world is small and terrifying; a venue that better reflects this might make the drama more intense, and intensity is the one thing that the show lacks.

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