From Heaven to the Springs
'Nightswim' moves Barton Springs from history to literature
The play is undeniably a romantic version of Austin history, but the playwright leavens the sentiment with a mix of humor and an edge of competition between the men over their various contributions to public letters. And the several dream sequences are striking in the way they erupt out of the ordinary lives of Dobie and Webb and then move into the netherworld that now belongs to Bedichek, thereby revealing more about all three men than the published evidence makes readily available. In that regard, the performances are also telling: David Stahl's Bedichek is an unpretentious observer of nature, suddenly thrust into unexpected wisdom; Doug Taylor as Dobie is an avuncular, sharp-tongued good ol' boy who also provides a narrative frame for the whole drama; and Robert Faires (also Chronicle Arts editor) as Webb is the soft-spoken academic a nonswimmer at the Springs whose uneasy spirit is only revealed in nightmare or crisis.
"The whole world's just stories and places," declares Dobie, and Moore has succeeded admirably in using that notion to weave together a seminal Austin story, a light-handed meditation on the nature of time and history, and a thoughtful homage to the sacred, sylvan grotto that as natural inheritance and treasured public trust embodies the best of who we are. With Nightswim, Barton Springs has passed through history and found another home, in our national literature.