Saturday, March 8, 2014
By April Boyle
We have all been at that point in our lives where we ask, “Why are we here?” After all, who hasn’t worked a meaningless job, been in a dead-end relationship or just become discouraged with the direction life has taken? In “A Bright New Boise,” the character Will (Rob Cameron) has an existential crisis of biblical proportions while working at the Hobby Lobby in the title Idaho city.
WHAT: “A Bright New Boise” by Fenix Theatre Company with Dramatic Repertory Company
WHERE: Portland Ballet Studio Theatre, 517 Forest Ave., Portland
DATE REVIEWED: Friday; play runs through Nov. 24.
TICKETS: $20 (free for 25 and under). Limited rush tickets for $10.
The Maine premiere of Samuel D. Hunter’s play is a collaboration between the Fenix Theatre Company and Dramatic Repertory Company. Along with Fenix Theatre’s founding artistic director Cameron, the one-act production stars Abigail Killeen (Anna), Erik Moody (Leroy), Bess Welden (Pauline) and Gabriel Walker (Alex).
When scandal destroys Will’s evangelical church in rural Idaho, he escapes to Boise and gets a job at the Hobby Lobby in hopes of reconnecting with his son, Alex, whom he gave up for adoption 17 years ago. He desperately hopes to find reclamation and purpose while working with Alex at the big box craft store. But will he find his prize in this extra nutty box of Cracker Jacks?
The entire play is set in the break room at the Hobby Lobby. Many of us may feel like we live at our jobs, but Will actually does. He’s currently living out of his car and hides away in the store at closing so he can use the company Wi-Fi to write his online book about the Rapture.
Like most places of work, the Hobby Lobby is a microcosm of colorful character types. The quirks and troubles of each character have been delightfully magnified, lending support to Will’s belief in the Rapture, and the need for a bright new world.
All the characters are basket cases in one way or another. Alex suffers from panic attacks; Leroy relies on sensationalism and shock value to communicate; Pauline tries to institute order with a litany of profanity; and Anna seeks drama in poorly written fiction in an attempt to avoid her overbearing father and brothers.
When Will joins the unstable mix, chaos ensues.
The play’s five cast members skillfully bring out both the humor and gut-wrenching reality of their characters’ lives.
Cameron adeptly goes from delivering subtle one-liners that hit like a sucker punch, to being all-out chilling as his character begs for the end of days. And the chilling effect is amplified by Walker’s unsettling portrayal of Will’s troubled son.
Killeen adds a nervous vibe as Anna, delivering a performance that makes the audience believe she is devoid of confidence.
On the flip side, Leroy appears to exude confidence, boldly wearing inappropriate work attire of his own design. Moody is well cast in the role, delivering a performance that is simultaneously tongue-in-cheek and intense.
Weldon humorously rounds out the cast as the foul-mouthed manager. Her tirades are thoroughly entertaining, and her craft attire provides the added touch.
To picture “A Bright New Boise,” imagine NBC’s “The Office,” change the setting to a craft store and throw in a biblical twist. The play has the satirical elements of “The Office” but packs a much more serious punch. It’s a provocative production that makes the audience contemplate what life is truly all about.
April Boyle is a freelance writer from Casco. She can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org