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By Daniel Skora
Posted: Oct. 4, 2012 at 9:40 a.m.
The Williamston Theatre is presenting "Boom," a dark comedy that takes a look at what might happen when an impending cataclysmic event starts into motion the beginning of the end times of our planet. Playwright Peter Sinn Nachtrieb has taken a big bite out of the anthropological clock, looking at the present state of mankind while reflecting on its past and taking a peek into its future.
Jules (Aral Gribble), a marine biology graduate student, and Jo (Alissa Nordmoe), an undergraduate journalism major, find themselves locked together in an underground bunker. Jules has prepared the bunker to be used as a refuge against a huge comet sailing through space on a collision course with planet Earth. Jo, who has responded to a want ad placed by Jules, has misinterpreted his request for an "Eve" to accompany his "Adam" into a new age as a request for a weekend of wanton sex. A good part of the first half of this 90-minute intermission-less play features the two sparring with each other over the purpose of their confinement.
The plot develops a bit of a hitch in the character of Barbara (Sarab Kamoo). Barbara is first seen looking down on the ill-matched couple from an observation platform overlooking the bunker. The area surrounding the platform contains numerous levers, buttons and measuring devices which are eventually revealed to control much of the bunker's environment and some of the actions of its two inhabitants.
Barbara, it soon becomes apparent, is a docent in a museum and Jules and Jo are nothing more than specimens in an exhibit being shown to an audience for their education and amusement. Tension comes to a head when the effects of the comet rattle the interior of the bunker, and again when a mishap alters the programmed sequence of events, forcing Barbara into an emergency mode in order to correct the mistake and insure the continual survival of the species.
"Boom" features outstanding performances by Kamoo, Gribble and Nordmoe. The set, designed by Janine Woods Thoma, includes an interesting and eclectic assemblage of electronic and mechanical stuff that buzzes and rings and flashes. A large aquarium containing what's purported to be four Beaugregory Damselfish (who may hold the secret to the survival of humankind) sits center stage.
Director Tony Caselli insures an exciting and highly visual production as well as doing a fine job capturing the urgency in which all three characters eventually find themselves. The two intersecting realities of Barbara and Jules/Jo provide an interesting platform on which to tell a tale.
Nachtrieb's script, however, falters on a few points. Like many of the new playwrights, he seems infatuated with sex to the point where he allows it to overwhelm the theme of his story. And too often, when pressed for a funny line, he reverts to the cheap laughs to be gotten from the use of the f-word, or that mother of all f-words, the mother f-er word.
There is confusion, too, in Nachtrieb's framing of the time sequences in which the parallel stories take place. Barbara, the facilitator of the exhibit at the museum where the story takes place, must, of course, be situated in the present. Jules and Jo, having been around at the time of the coming of the great comet, exist in some distant past. To present Jules and Jo as real people having an alterable future would appear to be impossible and require a good deal of bending the structure of what we understand time to be.
SHOW DETAILS: "Boom" continues at the Williamston Theatre through Oct. 21. Tickets are available by calling 517-655-7469. Further information is available online at www.williamstontheatre.org. The Williamston Theatre is located at 122 South Putnam in downtown Williamston, about 10 miles east of Lansing.
Reprinted with permission of the New Monitor, Oct. 4, 2012
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