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Boom
by Peter Sinn Nactrieb
Directed by Sarah Lynne Holt
R-S Theatrics
November 18, 2016

Andrew Kuhlman, Elizabeth Van Pelt Photo by Michael Young R-S Theatrics

Andrew Kuhlman, Elizabeth Van Pelt
Photo by Michael Young

R-S Theatrics

There’s a fish on the program cover. Don’t forget the fish, even when it looks like the world might end in a few minutes. That’s part of the premise of the truly unusual play Boom, which is the latest St. Louis premiere production from the small but innovative theatre company R-S Theatrics. Although it takes a while to figure out what’s actually going on in this play, Boom certainly makes an impression.

It starts out as a simple date arranged online, or at least that’s what Jo (Elizabeth Van Pelt) believes when a guy she just met via an online ad, Jules (Andrew Kuhlman) invites her to his basement marine biology lab at a university.  She’s a journalism student looking for a casual hookup, but we soon learn that he has other plans. In fact, her motives aren’t what they first appear, either. There’s a whole lot of that  in this play–shaking up of appearances. But wait, there’s more! As these two play out their scene, there’s a mysterious figure banging drums and flipping switches that seem to affect the actions between Jules and Jo. Eventually we learn the mysterious figure is Barbara (Nancy Nigh), who explains the best she can what she is doing and what the meeting between Jules and Jo is about.  How the two stories relate to one another is something I can’t say because it’s too much of a spoiler. All I will say is remember the fish!

This is a strange play, with elements of broad comedy, macabre humor, and a little bit of an absurdist bent.  It’s a reasonably linear story, but the reality of what’s happening isn’t made clear for quite a while. The characters are broadly drawn, from the exhaustingly optimistic Jules, played with a great deal of energy by Kuhlman; to the more pessimistic, determined Jo, played in a gutsy performance by Van Pelt, who has excellent combative chemistry with Kuhlman.  There’s also the enigmatic, disproportionately cheerful Barbara, played with excellent comic timing by Nigh, who’s importance to this story becomes more apparent as the story goes on. All three performers play their parts as approachably as possible considering the mysterious nature of the story, and the result is a lot of genuine, and occasionally disturbing, humor.

Technically, the play has been presented well. The Chapel has been set up so that the main floor is a major part of the staging area, along with the stage. There’s seating on either side of the main floor and a few seats up on the stage as well. Keller Ryan’s set effectively suggests the basement lab setting, as well as the podium where Barbara spends much of her time. There’s excellent, sharply focused lighting by Nathan Schroeder, as well, and clear, well-syncronized sound by Mark Kelley. Director Sarah Lynne Hall’s staging is dynamic as well, with the placement and movements of the characters providing a good deal of the humor.

Boom is cerrtainly an unusual play, but in its own way it’s also extremely relevant. The themes represented here are ones that are sure to provide much food for thought and conversation. It’s another excellent production from the always bold R-S Theatrics.

Elizabeth Van Pelt, Nancy Nigh Photo by Michael Young R-S Theatrics

Elizabeth Van Pelt, Nancy Nigh
Photo by Michael Young
R-S Theatrics

R-S Theatrics is presenting Boom at The Chapel until December 4th, 2016. 

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