Artists’ Initiative BoomBy Genie Baskir • Sep 11th, 2012 • Category: Reviews
Mulitz-Gudeltsky Theatre Lab at the Olney Theater Center, Olney, MD
Through September 16th, 2012
75 minutes no intermission
Reviewed September 9th, 2012
Well….there’s good news and bad news. Bad news first: there is really a God. Good news: she’s a girl named Barbara Millicent Roberts aka Barbie. At least I think she’s Barbie; I would love for her to be Barbie. Barbara (Ashley San), or God…Goddess?….or Schoolteacher Barbie…thinks math and science are hard. That doesn’t mean she can’t do them; she really knows her hard subjects as she expounds in her breathy, girly delivery describing what is in reality, a primordial soup. It just turns out that there may be more primordial soups than we thought. And her feet really are bent at 125 degrees so she can slip on those little plastic open toed shoes and show off red toenails.
Barbara/God really knows what she’s talking about, but she’s got some grief. It turns out that God, herself, has an even higher authority to answer to. That authority is Nature. Nature, as in scientifically established research and forensic evidence to advance hypotheses Nature, not Nature as in right-wing loony toon wishful thinking about secret female secretions and their ability to distinguish between congenial male ejaculation Nature and forcible basting tool ejaculation Nature. Nature is supervising Barbara. Barbara is a drummer but is in need of some occupational therapy which she didn’t create with the heavens and the earth 6000 years ago as rumored. Barbara also is frightened of insects which she should have thought of and corrected before Sunday. Barbara is sparkly and pretty, just like School Teacher Barbie.
But I digress. Peter Sinn Nachtrieb’s Boom is about forcible basting tool ejaculation and Artists’ Initiative presents this play at Olney Theatre Center so well that I am compelled to write the words “forcible basting tool ejaculation” sans irony and even humor. “But,” you’ll say, “Olney Theatre is such a schlep.” It is, but go anyway.
Jules (Stephen Murray) is a homosexual virgin whose only relationship so far has been with his hand. He is also a brilliant, but misunderstood, marine biologist…aren’t they all?…who knows the world is ending tonight because a comet…marine biologists predict comets?…will strike the earth and destroy everyone but him because he has duct taped the door to his basement apartment shut. Because no one is listening to a marine biologist who studies comets, Jules must save humanity himself; so he places a Craigslist ad…I cannot believe I am writing this…..looking for a female date to trap inside the duct tape and with whom to reconstitute humanity. The forcible basting tool ejaculate method is devised because Jules finds the idea of hetero sex with a woman revolting. Are you still reading? Even George Costanza couldn’t make this stuff up.
Jo (Chelsie Lloyd) is cruising Craigslist for a hookup and agrees to come over to Jules’ for a good old-fashioned schtup on a futon. Jo is from Massachusetts but has retained a dialect coach to erase any vocal trace of a New England upbringing. I wasn’t so lucky. Well, Jo starts to get a bit suspicious when she attempts to accomplish her quickie with Jules and he gets green just sniffing her. When he confesses to his plan to use her to save humanity, she gets a bit bitchy. She refuses to recruit Jules to bat for the away team even after the comet really does strike the earth and she and he argue for the rest of the play. Note to self: buy duct tape, oodles.
Jules, not to be deterred from his mission, keeps trying to penetrate Jo with the forcible basting tool ejaculate when he thinks he can catch her by surprise…I am still writing this. So far he has had no success because Jo keeps catching him at it before he can squeeze the big plastic thing at the top of the tool. Barbara, in the meantime, stops and starts the action as she explains the extraordinary principles of earth science and the regeneration of life. It turns out that when one is planning for the end of life as we know it, food and supplies have to be stored and rationed, but there is an endless supply of you know what if you keep your hand in good shape. Also, the issue of nature’s unpleasant messes is discussed but I’m not buying that one. There is no discussion of Jo’s preferred brand of bathroom tissue.
Surely, you must realize by now, that there is a meaningful spoiler I am trying to avoid. Murray is charmingly geeky as the poorly socialized Jules and Lloyd is appropriately furious that, not only is she still alive with this meshuganah basting tool penetrator, but she is also a virgin and is now likely to remain one. Barbara is still dropping her drumsticks and stopping and starting the action so she can explain it all and the ending is completely unexpected and ingenius and will blow the thoughtful away…pun intended. Barbara is no Hypatia of Alexandria, but she knows her science and quantum theory and she can keep our attention longer than Stephen Hawking can.
The music is a war of millennial generation anthems antagonized by dentist office Muzak….much like Jules and Jo. There is a lot to digest in this little show and the ultimate themes expressed are compelling to the both the hard scientist and the daydreamer.
The set is a composite paneled basement paradise edged in duct tape and furnished for a science nerd. This show requires complicated sound design and technique and the sound does not miss in enhancing the entire experience along with lighting to reinforce the themes discussed in the play. When the ending hit I was so completely engrossed with the principles of nature and earth science that I renewed both my Science and National Geographic subscriptions. In the end it’s School Teacher Barbie who’s left with the basting tool…..”Yoo hoo…Ken…….”
It seems there have always been false prophets telling the masses that God is planning to take His (Her? Its?) vengeance on humanity and destroy the Earth. And nowadays its hard to ignore the millions of ways we might unintentionally doom ourselves and accidentally end our existence on this planet regardless of some higher being’s intent. What I fell in love with about this script when I first read it several years ago, is its ability to at once poke fun at the coming apocalypse and simultaneously ask legitimate questions about what we as people should be doing with our time on Earth. As Jo so frequently asks, ‘Why am I here?’ Is our purpose in life really just to reproduce? Is it to build? To educate? To love? I don’t know the answer, but I think the question is important.
I had the great fortune to learn about life, storytelling, and theater from two incredible women: my mother, Beverly Fox,and my grandmother, JoAnne Fox. My mother passed away four years ago shortly before I first read this play, and my grandmother passed away in the middle of this rehearsal process. When I find myself wondering, like Jo, why I am here, I think of the way they chose to live their lives. They were devoted communicators. In both their personal and professional lives they constantly sought to make connections and build relationships with others. Whether or not you find this show provoking, I hope at minimum going out to the theater tonight has provided you with the opportunity to spend time with others, building (or sustaining) a relationship. If it does that much, I know I’m doing their memory justice. And that, for now at least, is why I’m here. – Renana Fox
- Barbara: Ashley San
- Jules: Stephen Murray
- Jo: Chelsie Lloyd
- Director: Renana Fox
- Production Manager/Sound: Heather Mork
- Stage Manager: Will Richardson
- Costume Designer: Toni Goldberg
- Properties: George Burgtorf
- Scenic Design: Matt Wolfe
- Lighting Design: Jedidiah Roe
- Photographer: Nick Hood
Disclaimer: Artists’ Initiative provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review and purchased advertising on the ShowBizRadio web site, which did not influence this review.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/8586.
Genie Baskir is a theatrical producer. She worked in radio production and direction for many years and gravitated to theatre when family members became involved with the stage.