What if the future survival of all humanity hinged upon a single Craigslist casual encounters ad? That is the premise of Peter Sinn Nachtrieb’s Boom, currently being presented by Artists’ Initiative at Olney Theatre Center’s Mulitz-Gudelsky Theatre Lab.
When quirky young scientist Jules (Stephen Murray) discovers that a comet is poised to extinguish all life on Earth, he lures punky journalist Jo (Chelsie Lloyd) into his bomb shelter with a Craigslist ad promise of “a night of sex to change the course of the world.” Post-armageddon, their courtship to repopulate the planet becomes… complicated.
I won’t give away much more of the story, because a great deal of the fun of Boom comes from the unexpected way in which Nachtrieb’s text unfolds – particularly the clever device used to frame his story. Director Renana Fox captures the pace and tone of a Disney Channel TV series (reinforced by Matt Wolfe’s bright set and Heather Mork’s crisp sound design), which is all quite amusing juxtaposed against the disaster scenario and the sometimes nefarious dialogue.
Murray and Lloyd, both attractive actors, commit to the spunky tween-sitcom aesthetic of this production – at times more caricature than honest in their portrayals of Jules and Jo, but in keeping with a concept that serves the piece well. Ashley San charms and engages the audience as the bubbly Barbara, a ‘tour guide’ and foley artist for the evening, reminiscent of Progressive Insurance advertising’s ‘Flo’ (complete with ‘tricked out name-tag).
Throughout the performance I attended, I kept thinking, “This really reminds me of a Woolly Mammoth play,” and I was not surprised to be reminded afterwards that Boom enjoyed a very popular 2008 run at Woolly (which I regrettably did not see, so no comparisons here). Artists’ Initiative is dedicated to “supporting the work of and providing opportunities to emerging artists,” but it might better support emerging artists to stand out in the crowd by selecting DC premiere material, most especially original work by emerging playwrights. An organization like Artists’ Initiative is well positioned to bring exposure to artists who have something new to offer, and to help them hone their craft.
That said, Boom is a highly entertaining and thought-provoking play, and it couldn’t be more timely as the Ancient Mayan calendar winds down. It is a well-directed and performed, and expertly designed.
Running Time: 80 minutes with no intermission.
Boom runs through September 16, 2012 at Artists’ Initiative at the Mulitz-Gudelsky Theatre Lab at Olney Theatre Center – 2001 Olney Sandy Spring Road, in Olney, MD. Purchase tickets online.