This review of Bill Bowers' All Over The Map at The Lion Theatre was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 6 (2016) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!
All Over The Map
Written & Performed by Bill Bowers
Developed with & Directed by Martha Banta
The Lion Theatre
410 West 42nd Street
New York, New York 10036
Bill Bowers, who was born in Montana and currently lives in New York City, will tell anyone who will listen that he is "a gay mime." I am not certain what that means because when he exhibited his "mime talents" in this show, I didn't see anything particularly "gay" in his technique or movements. Perhaps he meant to say he is a mime "who happens to be gay" and who broadcasts that fact as part of his own personal crusade to promote tolerance and acceptance of gays throughout the world. As a mime, he won the "Best Performance Award" at the Fresh Fruit Festival a few years back. This is his second "talking" solo performance, his first having been It Goes Without Saying. In this show, All Over The Map, Bill Bowers shares with his audience some of the varied experiences he has had on the road performing as a mime and giving "mime" workshops. He did not appear in white face (which according to tradition would have required him not to speak) and dressed very casually appearing on stage with only six chairs. Three video screens reminded the audience of the year and location he was speaking about at any particular time.
The show promises it is about "50 states, 25 countries, 2 Hookers, 1 Bunny, And A Mime." Not quite! The Mime is obviously Bill Bowers himself. The Bunny is the 15-year-old pet of a crazy lady he met in Billings, Montana who appeared at his workshop explaining that her pet rabbit, Rocky, was also a mime and wanted to take the class. Rocky, the rabbit, later e-mailed him and when he tried to ban him from a future class, he was accused of "Bunny Bigotry." One of the hookers was someone who approached his car when he was stuck on a slippery highway in Atlanta, Georgia for 21 hours during a rare snow storm in 2014, and the second was Xaviera Hollander ("The Happy Hooker"), who didn't give him his 50% cut of the door when he did two shows for her in Amsterdam. In the funniest line of the show, Bill wondered out loud whether "the Dutch version of going Dutch was the same as the American version." His takeaway was that he is now "amongst the many who have been screwed by The Happy Hooker." All Over The Map doesn't come close to telling stories from 50 states and 25 countries but he does speak of his experiences at a Nudist Camp in Worley, Idaho, an Amish Schoolhouse in St. Ignatius, Montana, and of experiencing the ice cold chill of anti-gay discrimination in Macedonia and Poland. He even adds in a segment that compares "Toilets Throughout The World."
Bill Bowers can make the most mundane experience, such as a 17-year old boy in Macedonia waving good-bye, sound interesting, even if the intentions of the boy and meaning of the story are never fully explained. From his descriptions of his travels throughout the world, it appears he never got out much or strayed too far from the safety of his motel room or the loving arms of his respective hosts. I have personally experienced more interesting things in a single night in New Orleans than he appears to have experienced in 30 years of traveling abroad. As a result, many of the stories he relays end with some cute, insightful or humorous statement someone said to him. For example, in Camden, New Jersey, he asked students, "Do you know why I'm not wearing white face today." One student's answer, "Because it's after Labor Day?" At the Amish Schoolhouse after performing Montana Moon in mime, he asks, "Does anyone know why I put the moon back in the sky?" A six-year-old girl answers, "Because that is where it belongs!" Similarly, while attending a meeting of the Gay-Straight Alliance at a school in Rome, Georgia, he met Jason, an extremely effeminate male student wearing a pocketbook who, unbelievably, told him while sashaying away, "One thing I am not looking for is unwanted attention." At the nudist colony, after comparing "coming out" as a nudist with "coming out" as a homosexual, one woman reflected, "We are all of us in the closet about something."
All Over The Map is a crowd-pleaser! Bill Bowers is a compelling storyteller who captivates the attention of his audiences transporting them in space and time to circumstances and situations outside of their current reality. While in retrospect, you may realize the stories Bill Bowers has told are not very substantive, you will nevertheless be entertained and will leave the theater feeling your money was well-spent. All Over The Map was developed while Bill Bowers was an Artist in Residence at All For One Theater, a company committed to the art of Solo Performance. All Over The Map runs through May 8, 2016 at The Lion Theatre. Tickets cost $36.25 and can be purchased at 212-239-6200 or at www.Telecharge.com. For more information on Bill Bowers, visit www.Bill-Bowers.com