A Bright New Boise
Also see Susan's review of The Book Club Play
What sort of person actively prays for God to bring on the apocalypse, rapturing believers to heaven while preparing to destroy the earth? It might be that mild-mannered fellow working at the big box store, according to A Bright New Boise, the thought-provoking comedy-drama now at Washington's Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company.
Samuel D. Hunter's play follows Will (Michael Russotto), who is deliberately vague about his past as he makes a fresh start ("We'll start you as part time38 hours a week") working for a large craft store in the suburbs of Boise, Idaho. Chris Baine's sound design sets the scene with the unending rush of passing traffic.
The denizens of the Hobby Lobby gather in a grim, whitewashed break-room (designed by Misha Kachman) with soulless fluorescent lighting (by Colin K. Bills); this setting really seems like an anteroom of hell. They are crazily intense and desperate to make connections with each other: Pauline (Emily Townley), the cheerfully profane supervisor with an uproarious take on conflict resolution; Leroy (Felipe Cabezas), the surly aspiring artist who can't be fired because no one else on the staff knows anything about art supplies; Anna (Kimberly Gilbert), the shy young woman who escapes into books whenever she can; and Alex (Joshua Morgan), the teenage boy who copes with frustration by threatening suicide. Then there's Will, whonot a spoilerhas sought out this particular store because he is Alex's birth father and wants to forge a relationship with his son before it's too late.
Director John Vreeke balances the absurdism of the situation (the break-room television set fluctuates between showing boring company-related talking heads and graphic medical videos) with the characters' search for meaning. Anna invites Will to go to church with her: "Come to the Lutheran church. We have bake sales!" However, Will can't select a church as if he's buying a car; he has a far more intense and all- encompassing bond with God, which sometimes involves praying at the top of his lungs in the store parking lot after closing time.
Vreeke has worked with his actors to find physical correlations to their character traits, from Gilbert's hunched posture to Cabezas' pugnacious stance and Russotto's attempt by a large man to make himself less conspicuous.
Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company