More Fun Than Bowling, Touchstone Theatre. For Jake Tomlinson, a good-hearted bowling-alley operator who's lost three wives to freak accidents, life is a lot like bowling: an antagonistic, repetitive game in which the object is to avoid the hurtling bowling ball of death. For his daughter Molly, life is more like playing Frisbee: a wonderfully carefree activity in which the object is to keep playing and make sure the disk doesn't hit the ground. But Touchstone's Chicago premiere of More Fun Than Bowling is a bit too much like both activities: pleasant enough at first, but eventually monotonous and pointless.
Playwright Steven Dietz explores Jake's life through warm, pithy father-daughter conversations, flashbacks of conversations with his ill-fated wives, and many a monologue, striving for a folksy, Gump-ian whimsy. But the imitative "Aw shucks" tone and sanguine observations on the horrors and wonders of life never feel genuine. Worse, the smart-ass dialogue makes the play seem an overextended Roseanne episode.
Rachel Silverman's rather uninspired direction adds little to Dietz's forced and sometimes unbearably cute play. When the cast members aren't standing dead center and soliloquizing, they're given little to do but stand off against or circle each other. There are occasional sweet moments, most notably the conclusion. But ultimately Dietz's title is ill chosen. "More Fun Than a Root Canal" might have been more truthful. --Adam Langer