Theater review: Despite flaws, ‘boom’ deliverseview: ‘Escanaba in Love’ both funny, warm
The absurdity of the play “boom” by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb might not be for everyone, but Interplayers Theatre’s production is certainly funny.
In this contemporary comedy directed by Dawn Taylor Reinhardt, college science student Jules lures a young woman, Jo, to his basement lab in an effort to survive the devastating impact of a comet hitting Earth and become the next Adam and Eve. The difficulty is that Jules is gay and Jo is a less-than-willing participant. Jules also manages to save a few fish.
The scenes playing out before us are actually a re-enactment of what future generations think happened. Jules and Jo are somewhat controlled by Barbara, a museum docent who lives 65 million years after the boom and manages the action by using a machine on the side of the stage, like the professor in the “Wizard of Oz.”
Ken Urso is hilarious as Jules, especially when he declares victory over the world for being right – that a comet did, indeed, hit the earth. “Vindication!” he shouts. His look and mannerisms are similar to Jim Parsons’ portrayal of Sheldon on the TV show “The Big Bang Theory,” but his spirit and lack of arrogance make him very likeable.
Meanwhile, Jo, played by Sofie Spilman, is fully committed to her rendition of the foul-mouthed and independent journalism student. It is thanks to her that the future inhabitants of Earth have a record of the last months of the last human beings of our kind on the planet.
While Urso and Spilman are well matched and equally energetic and rooted in their roles, their emotional levels seem to stay relatively the same. They argue and spar in the first scene, and several months later they are still at it. No one has given in. No one has really changed tactics to get what he or she wants, which is what usually creates great tension onstage.
Anne Lillian Mitchell stepped into the role of Barbara less than a week before the show’s opening and filled it nicely. Behind her wide smile lies Barbara’s nervousness and unhappiness with the museum’s management. Her monologue about how she was conceived was vivid and built to a comic crescendo.
The playwright’s dialogue is swift and smart, with many comedic and memorable lines. “Newscaster hair keeps the public from going insane,” Jo says. And, “I probably shouldn’t even have been a biologist. … I should’ve stuck to dance,” Jules says.
The play also poses big questions: “Would you want to be fully aware of the perilous situation that surrounds you and what was at stake? Or would you prefer to be blissfully ignorant of your role in the fate of the world?” Barbara asks the audience.
The set didn’t complement the play as well as it could have. Jules’ lab didn’t look like a lab at all, but like a college boy’s messy man cave. It also looked too realistic and not enough like a museum exhibit, such as the caveman diorama at a museum of natural history. This detracted from the fact that Barbara was supposed to be triggering the actions, when the setup could’ve helped bridge the gap between the past and present.
Barbara’s purpose in showing us the story of Jules, Jo and the fish is to demonstrate where we come from. While, in the world of the play, human organisms as we know them are no longer on the earth, everything has come full circle. Life has evolved again. The question is: What have we learned?