Sunday, November 23, 2008

Play: Faw Down Go ...

boom by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb, Directed by Jerry Manning, Seattle Repertory Theatre, through Dec 14.

Here's a little plug before we get down to cases: The Seattle Rep has a blog. Promotional and bits of backstage stuff, and worth checking out.

So, where were we? Ah yes, boom is a play about the end of the world. And while not all end of the world plays are science fictional in nature, this one is sufficiently so that the Lovely Bride said upon leaving the theater, "You know, there should be more science fiction plays."

I'm not sure about this sentiment, but let me get back to that after the summary.

boom is about the end of the world. Mad, muddled, ichthyologist Jules (Nick Garrison) has proof of the upcoming extinction-level event and comes up with a half-assed plan for humanity to survive, which includes selecting his Eve from an online ad. Acerbic Jo (Chelsey Rives) answers the ad and shares his bunker, but isn't looking for anything beyond a story to tell. And then there is Barbara (Gretchen Krich) who plays god (and the tympani), unseen by the other two actors. Barbara is guardian spirit and embattled bureaucrat and storyteller, and much of the resolution of the play is about how stories are told and what the heck we are really seeing.

And part of this is because this is a science fiction play, and in saying that you create a set of values and expectations. When you say something is a murder mystery, your mind immediately locks into the mode of identifying the victim, and later the villain, in the piece, such that it can overwhelm the rest of the story. Ditto a lot of science fiction - if all those decades of Twilight Zones and Outer Limits have taught us anything, it is that sf has a twist and moral message and you're suddenly looking for the trick instead of concentrating on the story itself. And part of the craft hinges of pulling off the trick without cheating the reader/viewer.

Nachtrieb pulls it off, such that I was looking for the trick, then got pulled back into the characters and the multiple levels of the play, so that the trick (well, tricks) became part of the fabric itself. And Nachtrieb (and director Manning) plays fair with leaving out all the clues so when the reveals are made, you are neither astounded nor indignant - rather, it is sewn into the flow of the play itself.

Garrison makes a soft, sad sack Adam to the new world, having a plan but lacking the heartless nature needled to carry it out. Rives is his Eve, sharp-tongued and angry, both at her captor and her life. And Krich, decked out in a flowing pantsuit that looks like something from the Star Trek (Original Series) garage sale, sells the point beautifully as we realize that her goofy, new-agey mannerisms are not that goofy after all. She is a slapdash Wizard in her elevated Oz above the stage, with percussion and switches and a lit panel answering to greater powers.

The other thing about SF is that we expect all the pieces to fit together. And not all of them do, here, but then its not QUITE the science fiction play. Good theater opens other doors, and the questions of storytelling and legacy filters into this play about Armageddon. So I will disagree with the LB - It is not quite an SF play, but it is close enough for army work, and it carries itself off well.

It was the end of the world as we know. Yeah, I feel fine.

More later,