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By Bridgette M. Redman
Posted: Sept. 29, 2012 at 8:53 p.m.
People need stories. They desire them with such passion and fervor that they invest heavily in their veracity and want them preserved letter-perfect, never to be changed.
Stories become so important that they can become a source of division amongst loved ones, the headwaters of conflict, anger and controversy. Amidst the contention over which version of a story is true, which one is factual, which one is told correctly, it can be easy to miss the point of the story.
Which matters more? How we were created or that we were created? Does the same miracle exist no matter which origin you subscribe to?
These are only some of the questions explored in Williamston Theatre's "boom," a science fiction "what if" story that has echoes of Kurt Vonnegut's "Galapagos" and the style and language of Christopher Moore. But you needn't be a sci-fi fan to appreciate Peter Sinn Nachtrieb's play. The story is epic in its proportions and ancient in its themes. It asks where we come from and what our purpose is on this planet.
It starts with sex. The play, that is, though perhaps also our purpose on the planet in a biological sense.
Jules, a marine biologist who has just spent four years on an island observing fish sleeping habits, places an ad on craigslist looking for intense, meaningful copulation. A journalism student, Jo, wanting to experience casual sex, responds. Above them is Barbara, who watches intently and provides live sound effects and eventually commentary.
Each of the three actors were perfect for their parts, telling the story with an intensity and passion that extracted the maximum humor potential from every choice. They face catastrophic events, but their responses are very human and individual.
Aral Gribble, playing Jules, fills a role that spotlights his talents. Gribble's a hilarious actor with perfect comedic timing. He's able to elicit laughter with the slightest gesture and expression, but never overplays it or becomes buffoonish. He explores the many ways that Jules makes choices that are both self-absorbed and unselfish at the same time.
With urgent physicality, Alissa Nordmoe creates a Jo who is wound tightly, desperately trying to escape her unknown, unexplained destiny. She's aggressive, cynical and vulnerable all at the same time. She remains unable to escape her own personal story, even when thrust into a larger one with demands that conflict with her own desires. Nordmoe makes Jo believable despite her near-fantastical situation.
Rounding out the cast, Sarab Kamoo brings passion and investment to the play, starting with a professionalism and eagerness that is eventually overwhelmed by her elated enthusiasm and love for the story itself. She (both Kamoo and Barbara) get it. They know why the story is important. They are so caught up in it, that they want to make sure that everyone else gets it too.
Williamston's "boom" has Tony Caselli's trademark direction on it as well. Every detail and every choice is about making a connection, exploiting the theme, and giving something of value to the audience. The production team shares this commitment. Nothing exists onstage without a purpose. The railings around the set can give the audience the first clue to explain what is happening in what starts out very uncertain and odd.
And then the demands placed on the set in this show are extreme. The program is silent on who built the set, but the design is credited to Janine Woods Thoma. Thoma manages to create a basement university lab that is practical and detailed, filled with Bruce Bennett's props that create a fully stocked set. All get used as part of the story, helping to ease the demands placed on the audience's imagination in this quirky, unusual and cosmic tale.
Alex Gay on sound and Daniel Walker on lighting were also kept busy creating special effects that elevated the story to the larger-than-life proportions.
Nachtrieb spins a story of creation, of evolution and of survival. All involved in the Williamston production work together flawlessly to explore the drama of individuals and species who are constantly driving to be something other than what they are, who are continually evolving rather than simply accepting that they are stuck being what biology and circumstance has made of them.
SHOW DETAILS: "boom" continues at Williamston Theatre, 122 S. Putnam, Williamston, Thursday-Sunday through Oct. 21. Tickets: $20-22. For information: 517-655-7469 or www.williamstontheatre.org.
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