Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Los Angeles


Megan Goodchild and
Nick Cernoch

Peter Sinn Nachtrieb's boom is one of those plays that's all about the plot. The dialogue isn't particularly electric; the characters are not complexly drawn. What it has going for it is a quirky, multi-layered story which (like the recent "Lost" finale) is emotionally satisfying but still leaves a lot of questions unanswered.

The action takes place in a basement science lab at a university where we meet Jules, the current resident of the lab, and Jo, the journalism student who is meeting him there. Jo has answered Jules's advertisement seeking sex and is raring to go; Jules is surprisingly nervous for a guy being jumped by a pretty girl who answered his own ad.

Turns out that they're both here with ulterior motives. Jo is working on a journalism project—she's been directed to find a story in a non-traditional way, and thinks that answering the ad will give her a story about random sex in an otherwise unhappy world. "In no strings sex," she says, "hope is still possible."

Jules has a secret motivation, too. According to his research, a cataclysmic disaster will soon strike the earth. And in that way of a marine biologist who knows everything about fish but nothing at all about human beings, he figured that the best way to ensure the survival of the human race was to place a sex ad to attract a woman—and then hunker down in his underground bunker with her for a few years until the earth's surface again becomes habitable and get on with the business of repopulation.

Jo thinks he's crazy, and you can't really blame her. There's a risk that the audience will think that Jules is simply a deranged nutcase who is locking a woman in his lab against her will. Nachtrieb solves this problem by adding a narrator, who can stop the action on stage and directly tell the audience what is actually going on outside the lab. But Barbara is more than a narrator. She sits in a control booth right beside the lab set, and affects the action by pushing buttons and pulling levers (and adding a dramatic soundtrack by pounding on a great big drum). It turns out that we're watching some sort of exhibit, which Barbara is running for us.

As a result of Barbara's existence (and, indeed, the existence of her audience), we know one really important thing: whatever happens in that lab, we know that humanity does, in fact, survive. (It's almost like watching 1776—you know the Declaration is going to get signed; you just have no idea how they're going to get there from here.) And we know one other thing: whatever happens in that lab is important enough for there to be an exhibit about it.

And that's the very most I can reveal. Because the fun of boom is in watching it unfold. Sure, the play is about a homosexual Adam trying to conceive children with an unwilling Eve—probably the two least-qualified people for the job of saving humanity. (And, yes, comedy ensues.) But there are larger themes at work here: the threat of extinction on large and small scales, perseverance, science, and, above all, survival. And there are some deliciously unexpected shout-outs to other topics, which may keep you puzzling over the show long after it has ended.

The three-person cast is comprised of two Furious Theatre Company members joined by Julia Duffy. I admit that I first wondered where on earth there would be a part for Duffy in Furious's edgy brand of theatre, but the role of Barbara was written for exactly Duffy's style of comedy. Part self-important teacher, part ditz—Duffy's Barbara is easily flustered and adds just the right tone whenever she interrupts the main action for something she feels she just has to share. Jules is all nerd—right down to the duct tape and WD-40 in his pockets—but Nick Cernoch brings an earnestness to him, such that his singlemindedness of purpose seems almost noble. Indeed, Megan Goodchild's Jo occasionally comes off as the unreasonable one in the pair—which is really odd when you think about it, as Jo certainly didn't sign up for being locked in a lab with Jules. But Goodchild emphasizes Jo's selfishness throughout, making her stray moments of vulnerability surprising.

Dámaso Rodriguez's direction is solid, as usual, with the action in the lab sometimes becoming so engrossing that we completely forget that Barbara is over there in the control room, until she intentionally grabs focus. (Although, near the end of the play, when Barbara echoes lines spoken in the lab, it is a nearly criminal separation of focus, as what's going on in the lab truly deserves our undivided attention.) Kurt Boetcher's dual set is one of Furious's more realistic designs. And props to the prop designer—we don't doubt for a moment that this lab has been fully stocked with exactly what Jules would think a couple would need for a few years of survival. Now, if he can only get the girl ...

boom runs at the Carrie Hamilton Theatre at the Pasadena Playhouse through June 20, 2010. For tickets and information, see

Furious Theatre Company presents boom. By Peter Sinn Nachtrieb. Directed by Dámaso Rodriguez. Produced by Furious Theatre Company. Stage Manager Susan K. Coulter; Scenic Design Kurt Boetcher; Lighting Design Christie Wright; Original Music & Sound Design Doug Newell; Costume Design Leah Piehl; Props Design Shannon Dedman; Fight Choreographer Brian Danner; Graphic Design Eric Pargac; Assistant Director Courtney Harper; Production Managers Shawn Lee and Brad Price; Associate Producer Dan Steele; Assistant Stage Manager Deidre Works; Master Carpenter Michael Turner; Marketing and Publicity David Elzer/Demand PR; Production Photographer Anthony Masters; Master Electrician Janelle Weatherford; Set Construction Shawn Lee and Brad Price; Production Intern Jessica Henderson.

Barbara - Julia Duffy
Jules - Nick Cernoch
Jo - Megan Goodchild

Photo: Anthony Masters

- Sharon Perlmutter

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