'Fish Eyes' recalls why fishermen followed Christ

By JULIE McHALE - TimeOut Theater Critic

October 23, 2014

MILWAUKEE - Acacia Theatre Company describes itself as a group that offers plays of substance and moral fiber.  This philosophy will attract some patrons and serve as a turnoff to others, but I find that their choices are wise ones with broad appeal to anyone.   

Even the blatantly religious ones, such as “Fish Eyes,” based on the story of Peter and his brother Andrew’s call to follow Christ, is a delightful recounting of two fishermen’s halting decision to follow this amazing man called Jesus. It is a very funny and very human story, which anyone can relate to. It is really a story about any major decisions one makes and the reasons for making them.  

Written by playwrights Ted Swartz and Lee Eshleman and directed by Janet Bouman Peterson, the entire cast consists of the first two disciples chosen by Jesus. All of the other characters are imagined. A talented violinist, Therese Goode, provides the transitions between the 14 scenes that tell their story.  

The dialogue is clever and full of allusions to the Bible, especially the gospels. David Shapiro and Matt Koester are both master actors, and they capture our interest immediately with their brotherly sparring, their befuddlement, and their earthiness. We love these two guys and are reminded of people we know who would have had the same reaction to some of Jesus’ teachings and been just as astonished as they were when they were chosen to follow this strange, charismatic man. As for fully understanding some of Jesus’ teachings, there are hundreds of scholars still working on that little project, and often fighting over various interpretations at that.  

The stage has minimal props - a canoe, a net, a suitcase, and a board and a couple stools to suggest the Last Supper. It’s enough to set the various scenes. It’s amazing how real it all seems. The talented duo should be given credit for engaging us so completely.  

The walking on water, the Sermon on the Mount, the miracle at the wedding at Cana, Peter’s denial, the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, the triumphant parade on Palm Sunday - these and many more familiar scenes are included, but with a unique twist - all seen through Peter and Andrew’s eyes, two ordinary fishermen who never fully understood what hit them when a man on shore told them to cast their net on the other side of the boat and miracles started to happen.  

I can’t recommend this show more strongly. You will love every minute of it.  

Regardless of what you believe, the Bible story is part of our culture and Christianity in its various sects, a strong tradition in this country and one that many ascribe to.  

“Fish Eyes” has shows at 8 p.m. Friday, 4 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday at the Todd Wehr Auditorium on the Concordia University Wisconsin campus, 12800 N. Lake Shore Drive, Mequon. Call 1-414-744-5995 or visit