Saturday, November 29, 2008


CPT’s ‘BOOM’--not your usual holiday fare

The stated mission of Cleveland Public Theatre, which is now staging Peter Sinn Nachtrieb’s ‘BOOM,’ is to “develop new work and support emerging artists.” The company “seeks plays that challenge audiences and offer unique theatrical experiences.”

‘BOOM’ fulfills CPT’s mission well.

The play, according to its author, is about "this gay marine biologist who posts a Craigslist ad for what seems like casual sex, and what happens when a female journalism student answers the ad." What appears to be a casual date evolves into something far more momentous which includes Pampers, a baster, a broken leg, fish, Tampons, drums and chains.

The concept of Nachtrieb writing a play about this subject comes naturally. He had the unusual double-major of biology and drama. And the subject is real. As the writer says, "The scientist character is based on experiences I had off the coast of Panama, as a research assistant to a marine biologist. "We were on this spit of sand in an archipelago that's one of the least-populated places in the world. We just watched fish spawn for four months."

The format of the play is unusual. The audience finds themselves in a “museum” observing the acting out of a “play.” Barbara, the “stage manager,” who manipulates the entire experience, makes some changes in the format and the goings-on thrust out of a normal pattern. The question arises as to the reality or lack of reality, the truth or fiction of what we are viewing.
There is an almost science fiction feel. And, after the Bush/Chaney administration which appeared to be centered on leading the nation to doom, maybe the “do we have any control over our lives” is more real than we’d like to believe.

Reviews of the New York and Washington, DC productions used such phrases as, “grandly whacked-out apocalypse fantasy;” “literate, coarse, thoughtful, sweet, inappropriate;” and “wracked by existential anxiety.” One reviewer called it "essentially a dark-themed, light-toned allegory of survival and change."

The CPT production, under the direction of Beth Wood is as good as possible. The cast is excellent and the pacing is right, though the 90-minute intermissionless presentation seems much longer due to the talky script.

Kelly Elliott, she of mobile face and great vocal variety, is delightful as Barbara, She has a wonderful way of being both confused and “in charge” at the same time. Skinny and gawky Doug Snyder, is a born nerd! His Jules is pure scientist who doesn’t have the social graces to realize he is totally off-key to the rest of the world. Laurel Johnson, though often shrill, carries off the role of the Jo, the female reporter trapped in the play’s fantasy, with realism.

Capsule judgement: In spite of the critical raves of previous productions, this is not a play for everyone. The script contains too many words and too little action. It is abstract and leaves one asking, “What is this all about?” If you like Theater of the Absurd , this is for you! If not, go see David Sedaris’ ‘The Santaland Diaries’ which is being staged in CPT’s other theatre.