note: entire contents copyright 2012 by Sheila Barth
It doesn’t matter much that Samuel D. Hunter’s play, “A Bright New Boise,” has a few holes, or that some characters’ repetitious lines land like a dull sledgehammer after awhile.
Victor Shopov’s riveting performance as Will, an Evangelical Christian whose faith remains steadfast after his church is disbanded when shaken by a hideous occurrence, makes Zeitgeist Stage Company’s production worth seeing.
Will actually has more deep secrets up his seemingly serene, humble sleeve, making him more enigmatic to his new co-workers at a large Boise Hobby Lobby craft shop and also to theatergoers. Shopov’s metamorphosis, from a soft-spoken, mild-mannered loner to an armageddon zealot, is startling.
Zeitgeist Director-Scenic Designer David Miller has created a grubby, employee breakroom, where three of the five misfit, minimum wage employees, learn they’re interconnected in this one-act tragicomedy.
Will has traveled from Coeur d’Alene to Boise and lives in his 1994 Subaru. He hides out in the store after hours so he can plug in his computer in the breakroom and continue writing his “Christian literature” blog. He’s surprised when co-worker Anna (nicely portrayed by Dakota Shepard) is hiding out, too, so she can read books without her dad and brothers harassing her at home for it. Anna seems airy, but she likes stories that end in tragedy and death.
But Anna grosses out at the breakroom’s monitor, when it shifts from in-house infomercials to films showing medical-surgical procedures.
Will, former member of New Life Church, tells Anna he “wants to spread God’s word,” and that “his [defunct] church was dedicated to saving people through Christ.” He awaits “the Rapture,” or the end of the world. “Now! Now! Now!” Will intones, bathed in designer Michael Clark Wonson’s dramatic lighting in opening and closing scenes.
Pragmatic Hobby Lobby manager, Pauline (Janelle Mills), is attuned to her employees‘ foibles and idiosyncrasies, including teen-ager Alex’s dramatic panic attacks, and his tattooed, revolutionary, artsy, protective older brother Leroy’s (David Lutheran) self-designed x-rated T-shirts. As Will and Alex’s shared secret unfolds, their confrontations intensify.
However, Pauline’s perpetually dropping f-bombs while practicing conflict resolution among her employees is grating, an unwelcome distraction.
Zach Winston as Alex, the screwed-up 18-year-old aspiring musical composer and the store’s best accountant, is compelling, but he threatens suicide too often, diluting his attempted act.
BOX INFO: New England premiere of one-act play by award-winning playwright, Samuel D. Hunter, presented by Zeitgeist Stage Company through Oct. 20, at the Boston Center for the Arts (BCA) Plaza Black Box Theatre, 539 Tremont St., South End, Boston. Performances: Thursday, at 7:30 p.m.; Friday, 8 p.m.; Saturday, 4,8 p.m.; Sunday, 4 p.m. Advance tickets, $25; at the door, $30; seniors, students, $20; Oct. 17, Pay-What-You-Can night, $7 minimum. Call 617-933-8600 or visit the Box Office at 527 Tremont St. For more information, visit www.ZeitgeistStage.com.