I first saw Peter Sinn Nachtrieb’s shockingly funny “Boom” in a workshop performance for new playwrights at Brown/Trinity Playwright’s Summer Theatre. I remember finding the play fascinating and “promising.” Little did I know that it would go on to be America’s most produced play in 2009-2010.
Gamm Theatre, under the sharp, energetic direction of Fred Sullivan Jr., has taken the apocalyptic comedy and made it even more shocking and energetic than the one I saw four years ago. Credit must go to Patrick Lynch for his incredible set that spreads across the stage and literally shakes everything up.
The story involves Jules, a young marine biologist (Marc Dante Mancini) who is studying the habits of fish in relationship to the apocalypse. He lures Jo, a college journalism major (Gillian Williams) to his underground laboratory with a sexually explicit personal ad. Little does she know what is in store for her.
“Why am I here?” she asks, when Jules rejects her sexual advances. Jules is convinced that the destruction of earth is eminent. Jo thinks he is crazy, until there is one heck of a boom.
With nothing left above them and their food supply spoiling, the only hope for survival is for the odd couple to procreate. The problem is that Jules is gay, they are both virgins, and Jo will have nothing to do with the kooky methods Jules comes up with to impregnate her. To say that the situation becomes out of control is putting it mildly.
In the midst of all the action is Barbara (Wendy Overly). More a facilitator of the story than a narrator, Barbara tries to fill in the gaps and explain the situation, while emphasizing major points in the story by beating on a kettle drum. Overly is outrageously and hysterically funny with her comments, asides and drifting, as she wanders in and out of the action.
There is so much that you can read into this play about religion, philosophy and the origins of life. Just when the couple starts waxing philosophical, Barbara interrupts with an absurd statement or, in one case, an innocent sneeze.
The hour and 20-minute, one-act play moves toward its inevitable conclusion, with a few final words from Barbara, sending you out of the theatre to ponder the many questions raised.
Director Sullivan, in his program notes, sings high praises for his three actors, and I concur. Overly, the Gamm veteran, has never been better. Mancini, who started his career at Gamm as a props master, has grown into a terrific actor. And Williams, who played the sweet and gentle Ophelia in Gamm’s “Hamlet,” proves her versatility as the explosive Jo.
A big word of warning: There is the overuse of one vulgarity that has permeated the vocabulary of our younger generation. Most of us have become immune to it, but we overheard a group of older women in the lobby who were offended.
“Boom” is at the Sandra Feinstein Gamm Theatre in Pawtucket through April 8. Tickets are $34-$42. Call 723-4266 for reservations.