A college biologist puts an ad online, seeking a partner for “intensely significant coupling.”
A randy journalism major shows up at his underground research lab, thinking this will be a night of anonymous sex.
But in “boom,” Peter Nachtrieb's 2008 comedy about existential fears and human resilience, nothing is quite what it seems.
Not even that lady at a control panel in the corner, intermittently pulling levers and panicking.
What “boom” is for sure is a little play with big ideas on its mind. Three characters, one room, no intermission. The Omaha Community Playhouse production, which opened Friday, is funny, thought-provoking and touching. Also profane.
Either you'll find it hilarious that all three characters have a fondness for a word that begins with mother and ends with an F-bomb, or you won't. Either way, they'd like you to cut them some slack as they ponder the end of the world as we know it.
Yes, Jules (Ben Beck) wasn't kidding about significant coupling. A comet is barreling toward Earth and nobody in the scientific community believes Jules' theory, fed by the behavior patterns of fish. His ad was part of preparing to repopulate the planet after the big boom.
But there are problems. Jo, the woman who answers the ad, (Amy Schweid) can't stand babies. And Jules is gay. He's hopeful. She's cynical. In the hands of these two scrapping loners with intimacy issues, will the human race survive?
Not sure, but that starchy lady in the corner (Judy Radcliff) gradually makes clear that what we are watching is a sort of museum exhibit about the great apocalypse, speculating much later on what happened. She jazzes up the more dramatic moments by banging on a large kettle drum and a gong with zeal and fluorish. Very funny.
Her character also speaks to our need for myth and mystery about the beginning and end — and meaning — of life.
The acting and script are strong enough that a Thursday preview audience twice burst into applause at the end of particularly hilarious rants.
As Jules, Beck combines a deadpan, nerdy earnestness with offbeat line readings and body language that had people repeatedly doubled up with laughter. Schweid's Jo is all hysterical hysterics, collapsing at every escape attempt between verbal diatribes. (An explanation for those collapses comes late.)
As take-charge Barbara, the museum guide whose personal investment in this exhibit runs a little too deep, Radcliff is a hoot and a half.
Ahna Packard's set — an arch with recessed lighting over the lab, a backdrop of Earth behind it, a floor that looks like the primordial pool we all sprang from — bridges sci-fi cool and everyday drabness.
Herman Montero's lighting keeps focus where it belongs but also has fun, as lights inside a fish tank and kettle drum change colors with the mood.
Nachtrieb's script is a clever mind-blower. While director Amy Lane's brisk pacing and staging are decided plusses in mining comedy, a few moments of sobering thought could use time to breathe and move us a bit more.
What's clear already is that Lane and cast lower the profanely comedic boom with relish. “boom” crosses sex comedy with apocalyptic angst, a tricky mix that nonetheless proves highly entertaining.
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