Silver Water
Book-It Repertory Theatre at A Contemporary Theatre, 325-6500. Through Feb 25.

Silver Water carries the excellence of Book-It's recent productions of classics (for example, a nice rendition of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice) into these contemporary stories. Amy Bloom, a darling in American publishing since Come to Me appeared in 1993, is an ideal author to present, for her characters are snappy of tongue and perceptive in sorting through their ordeals; they don't come to easy answers or clichéd, one-note solutions. Likewise, Bloom's weakness for stooping to excessively topical, brand-name references and locales, locking the reader into too much specificity, is easily avoided onstage. Book-It's script (adapted by director Mary Machala and actor Jane Jones) seems to use the meatiest prose from these three interconnected stories about a New England family.

The collection of 11 actors in this production is absolutely lovely; diverse stage types that come across as gentle, confounded, and real as anyone you'd meet in a supermarket, but much more fun to watch for their studied, compressed articulations of character. That's the balance that much realistic theater (and art) aims for: to be lifelike in compact, magic shorthand without the drudgery and real-time noise of real life. But that's also why, I think, the conventions of realism are merely conventions and no closer to real life than, say, absurdism is.

Peter Crook leads the cast strongly as David, the protagonist who visibly carries the hurt burden of a childhood gun accident through his adult life; Sheila Daniels plays multiple roles ably; and Jones is especially first-rate in her characterization of Galen, the grumpy, disheveled pianist who marries David but is suddenly moved, mid-life, for the first time by a beautiful man. The cast's four children make the stage visually interesting, and the actors wheel around through the many scene changes in purposeful, frequent entrances and exits that finally seem to reflect the swift and heartbreak-tinged locomotion of suburban lives. A must-see for Bloom fans; good theater for everyone else.