Seattle Repertory Theatre
November 13 – December 14, 2008
boom by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb and directed by Jerry Manning is an odd exploration into the post-apocalypse of an ever negligent and oblivious human society. It concerns Jules (Nick Garrison), a socially inept ichthyologist recently returned from a rather revelatory biological expedition and Jo (Chealsey Rives), a contemptuous journalism major lured into Jule’s “underground lab” through an online solicitation for “intensely significant coupling.” Their story clips along nicely, with Jules’ discovery of a comet due to collide with the earth in “seven-ish” minutes and his obvious need for a female bunker-mate. As the story reaches its first major peak, it is suddenly and jarringly interrupted by Barbara (Gretchen Krich), a wildly eccentric elderly woman who has operated this museum exhibit for years, making it her baby – raising it from the fledgling show it was into the performance piece she made it. As the two stories progress through the rest of the evening, Barbara’s story, though compelling on its own, presents an unnecessary and distracting counterpoint to Jules and Jo’s more urgent tale.
Nick Garrison and Chelsey Rives. Photo by Chris Bennion.
The production itself is expertly executed from acting to direction to the calling of countless precise cues. Manning’s direction of boom takes a dangerously melodramatic situation and turns it into a fascinating human exploration of real people in extreme circumstances. A situation such as the apocalypse can turn quickly into two people annoying each other and everyone else tangentially involved, but Garrison and Rives deliver their characters with humanity and substance that provides layers aplenty for the audience to ride. Krich’s performance of Barbara’s story was masterfully handled. Though Barbara’s storyline was awkwardly injected into the play and her character was rather selfish and peeving, Krich carried her with a grace and adeptness that made Barbara endearing in a way few could.
Robert J Aguilar’s lighting design is flawless to say the least. His scalpel-sharp cues and brilliant juxtapositions of stark white with soft blues and gentle hues keeps the audience on their toes and the actors on their marks. Likewise Matt Starritt’s sound design was seemingly effortless and similarly razor-sharp. Harmony
The production carried out its mission very well; the script however, did not live up to its end of the bargain. The two stories, though based around the same themes of survival, loss, grief etc, are on two completely different levels of urgency and leaves one story feeling discounted and the other feeling as though it must carry a weight that it can in no way bear. While Seattle Rep’s production of boom is polished, entertaining and shows of the designers’ and performers’ skills, but the script, which should be the bedrock of any production, is too confusing for the audience to get anything substantial out of it in the end.
Review by Nigel Andrews and Lia Morgan