2010-06-03 / Arts & Entertainment News

The end of the world — and thanks for the fish

ARTS COMMENTARY
Jo: “Why am I here?”

Jules: “That’s something we all

want to know, isn’t it? Is there a

‘purpose’ to our form and substance?

Or are we simply the random

result of billions of years of

chemical reactions and accidents

influenced by pressures from the

environment?”

You think you’ve had bad dates?

Try topping Jo’s: answering an online ad, she goes to a subterranean marine biology lab on campus for a meaningless Saturday night hook-up, only to discover that Jules, the guy who placed the ad, is gay.

Christopher Brent and Virginia Grace in “Boom.” Christopher Brent and Virginia Grace in “Boom.” Not only can he not perform, but he doesn’t even seem the least bit bicurious, despite his misleadingly provocative ad.

Talk about a mismatched pair.

Jo is, understandably, angry. Then she gets scared.

“What if this is it?” she asks. “What if all there is, is this room? And you…And that’s all we get. And then we die.”

The situation grows worse.

Jules is a biology geek who, through his study of fish, thinks the Earth is on verge of a global catastrophic event, even though he has no solid proof. The fish, you see, have been acting strangely, and Jules believes they sense imminent mass destruction and the end of humankind. So after Jo shows up, he locks them into the utilitarian basement lab, duct-taping the door for good measure.

Virginia Grace as Jo waits impatiently while Christopher Brent as Jules fumbles with his pants in the opening scene of “boom.” Virginia Grace as Jo waits impatiently while Christopher Brent as Jules fumbles with his pants in the opening scene of “boom.” And so begins “boom,” a dark comedy by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb. This clever play about fish and the end of the world is so popular, 16 different theater companies produced it in one season alone.

And now it’s on the boards at Theatre Conspiracy through June 12.

The venue has a reputation of pushing the envelope creatively and showcasing innovative plays; “boom” is no exception.

Christopher Brent plays Jules, the geeky biologist. A scrawny redhead with a Superman emblem tattooed on his right arm, he displays a sweet vulnerability when not in survival mode. But he’s totally inept with women — possibly with humans in general — and obsessed with impregnating Jo.

Mr. Brent has one of his best scenes early in the play, when Jo commands him to take off his clothes. He’s so nervous, he’s talking like a speed freak while unsuccessfully trying to take off his pants without removing his shoes.

Virginia Grace plays Jo with great aggression and anger. At one point she delivers a vehement speech about how she hates babies. (“I hate babies! You do not want eggs from this basket. They’re cracked.”)

But I would’ve liked to have seen more nuance from both of them, more variation of emotion and character. Ms. Grace’s Jo just seems angry.

She also does not seem to be the brightest bulb; she says she was inspired to go into journalism because she wants to be a broadcast personality with helmet hair. “Newscaster hair keeps the public from going insane…” she declares.

Mr. Nachtrieb’s sparkling script contains many lines that are funny or food for thought, but some of them are unfortunately lost because of the delivery. It’s a lot for the two actors to memorize, but I would’ve liked more levels of interaction between the two, as if they were really engaging with each other and reacting to each other.

The third character of “boom,” Barbara (Tera Nicole Miller), stays mostly off to the side, stage left. Dressed in what could be a business suit or an usher’s uniform, she mans a semicircular information desk and operates a multi-levered contraption that affects the lighting and action occurring on the rest of the stage. She also plays a large kettle drum, banging on it from time to time for emphasis and effect.

Of the three, she seems to hit the right comedic tone, reveling in the absurdity of it all. Ms. Miller possesses good timing and is also adept at physical humor. Her Barbara is zany, passionately earnest, and so overwhelmed with emotion at times that she can’t even find the words to express herself and has to resort to sounds and gestures.

Her role in this play, and why she’s off to the side, is initially a mystery, but reveals itself over time.

The set is dully monochromatic, and except for the colorful aquarium and the patterned futon, everything is metal and functional. Barbara’s desk and strange, levered contraption, both made of wood, give a little more warmth to the stage.

Director Bill Taylor has chosen yet another thought-provoking play.

Jo, a journalism major, explains at one point that she has a class assignment to “find a story in an unconventional place that uplifts you. Personally. Deeply. Truly.

“In other words: no tricks. No lies. Find a story that makes you feel honest, genuine hope.”

And while this production’s a little shaky in spots, and at times indecipherable, that’s precisely what “boom” does: causes you to consider your place in the universe while also giving you hope. ¦
.. If you go
“boom”
>>When: Through June 12
>>Where: Theatre Conspiracy at the Foulds
Theatre, 10091 McGregor Blvd., Fort Myers
>>Cost: $22 ($10 for students) Thursday performances
are buy one ticket, get the second half
off. On June 10, you can buy one ticket, get one
free, with proof of Fort Myers residency.
>>Information: Call (239) 936-3239 or go to
www.theatreconspiracy.org. The play deals with
adult themes and contains adult language and
situations.

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