note: entire contents copyright 2010 by Sheila Barth
What isn’t surprising is Boston acclaimed actor Karen MacDonald, strutting her versatility after a brilliant, mind-boggling dramatic performance at Huntington Theater’s “All My Sons,” then easing into hilarity in this comedy. MacDonald, as narrator Barbara, is the glue that holds “boom” together. Barbara mans all lighting and sound controls on the sideline, while infusing some personal and educational observations about her historic exhibit. She beats drums, clangs bells, and feverishly pulls levers while complaining about her status at the museum where she works.
As she works away, controlling the action onstage, Zofia Gozynska as Jo and Scott Sweatt as Jules, enact milestones in their final 267 days and moments of the world, as they battle hunger, each other, and try to retain their sanity. Although the plot is unlikely, Gozynska and Sweatt are likable, believable, their timing and reactions comedic.
Jules is a young, ardent marine biologist who was sent to a remote island off and on for four years, living alone, while observing and researching marine life. When he makes a startling discovery and reports it to his laboratory superiors, they laugh at him, he tells Jo, a hyper journalism student who has answered a personal ad to meet for world-shattering coupling, or sex.
Jo, who calls herself a mutant, arrives at Jules’ apartment, (that’s really a survival or disaster shelter), and she’s hot to get at it, as he hems, haws, and rebuffs her, admitting he thinks he’s gay. When he tells her a comet is about to hit earth in minutes, killing everything and everybody - according to his calculations - and he hoped to procreate with her to save the human race, she thinks he’s crazy and tries to escape.
One incident after another ensues between the two, before, during, and after the comet collides. Jo attacks Jules and unsuccessfully attempts suicide several times, while he tries to maintain a calm, sane demeanor. In the meantime, Barbara infuses comments and reactions about how unhappy she is with her superiors who want to close her exhibition. She also injects some gags and comic gestures during scenes.
Although Jarrod Bray’s set, Chris Brusberg’s lighting and Matt Griffin’s sound design are impressive, and the actors are all funny and energetic, Artistic Associate-Director Bridget Kathleen O’Leary leaves too much repetition in her attempts to eke out every giggle and guffaw. The play is 90 minutes long, but would probably be more effective if it were cut down.
“Boom” does have several entertaining moments, primarily because of the cast, clever stage effects, and some of Peter Sinn Nachtrieb’s dialogue, that features contemporary references. It’s worthwhile seeing, if only for its novelty and execution.
BOX INFO: One-act, 90-minute play written by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb, appearing through March 13 at Downstage at the New Repertory Theatre, in residence at the Arsenal Center for the Arts, 321 Arsenal St., Watertown. Showtimes are Wednesday, Thursday, at 8 p.m.; Friday, 8:30 p.m.; Saturday, 4,8:30 p.m. General admission is $25. For tickets and more information, call 617-923-8487 or visit www.newrep.org.