MIDVALE — Bob Juan Casanova is a self-guided tour of the title character’s love life starting with junior high in 1999 and proceeding to the present day. Addressing the audience, Bob (JayC Stoddard) laments that women consistently tell him he’s a nice guy, but then shut him down before a second date. To understand the true nature of his dating woes, one must understand his relationship with the woman at the root of them all, the object of all his junior high dreams, and the elusive love of his life from thence onward: Bianca (Jennifer Hamilton).
Cue flashback to junior high. Bob presents a memory play, enacting scene after scene with his various love interests. The set (Angus Carter and JC Carter) is simply a few black boxes and a couch, allowing leaps from memory to memory without hindrance. The audience first witnesses Bob checking out Bianca’s derriere in ninth grade and then proceed through their becoming friends in high school theater, Bob’s dropping out of college, his having an affair with his boss (Lindsay Marriott), his mid-20’s relationship with a high school student, his one afternoon stand with a girl he met at the library, his weekend romance with a movie star. Don’t worry, though. Nothing I just told you was a spoiler because each of them is only tangentially connected to the plot.
When I met Bob in the opening scene of the play, he seemed like a nice guy who deserved better from the girls who kept rejecting him. But over the course of Bob’s romantic memoire, my alliances switched sides. I still believed Bob was a nice, well-intentioned guy, but I also believed he needed a life coach to whip him into shape with messages like, “It’s up to you to be happy. You don’t have to wait for a woman to fix all your problems!” and, “As an intelligent and capable individual, it is within your abilities to stop making your audience watch this self-indulgent and hackneyed history of your life!” Alas, Bob was never thus empowered, and the show went on. A few times it seemed like Bob had learned something, but those kept turning out to be red herrings.
Several of the actresses played multiple characters. I’m generally in favor of anything à la stylings of Joe Versus the Volcano, but I didn’t feel like this gimmick worked as well as it should have. This was partially because of the characters’ unchanging wardrobes (Everyone wore jeans, all the time!) and partially because Bob would occasionally talk about one of his love interests, and then he would introduce an actress who looked nothing like the woman he had just described. And then no one made a joke about the incongruence between what the audience was seeing and what Bob was saying. At one point, an actress did don a wig, but she was playing the same character she had been playing pre-wig.
JayC Stoddard, as Bob, was a charismatic tour guide. With boundless energy he engaged the audience in his monologues and exhibited fantastic comic timing. Alice Gonzalez was easily my favorite actress to watch. She was always believable and always earned a laugh.
The play felt like an early draft of She’s Just Not That into You (the hypothetical male-focused sequel to He’s Just Not into You). While chronologuing one’s dating life has been done before, presenting the details as a memory play and breaking the fourth wall breathed originality into this production. Occasionally a line was terribly witty, or a scene was hugely evocative. I loved the clever use of emoticons and email and the references to life in Utah. At one point, I really did feel a girl deserved to be slapped for the way she treated Bob. The playwright’s (Robert A. Easton) references to pop culture and contemporary dating customs made it easy for the audience to sympathize with the characters’ experiences on a basic level.
But the same qualities that made this play original also made it hard to identify with the characters very deeply. Some of the events mentioned in Bob’s monologues seemed like they would have made scenes worth watching, and some of the scenes presented felt like they could have been monologued or skipped. The dialogue was hampered with highfaluting language and syntax that didn’t seem to fit the characters or situations. A “Cute Girl in the Audience” (Rachyl Bonell) transitioned into a main character in a way that could have been charming had her relationship with Bob been given more depth.
Overall, Bob Juan Casanova has potential, both as a person and a play. Bob was obviously smart and capable, and he was the kind of guy a girl would feel bad for. But a normal woman would want to be “just friends” rather than taking on a fixer upper. The play had a lot of clever ideas that could easily have a place in a fun comedy. Several of the scenes really pulled at the heart strings, and several of the jokes got a laugh. Overall though, the production—like Bob—was a bit of a fixer upper.