"A Bright New Boise" is one dark little night at the theater. Gripping and funny, with interesting characters and strong performances from each of the five actors, you exit the theater looking carefully in all directions, particularly up.
Robert Parsons is a great choice to play Will, the ex-evangelist -- maybe -- at the center of this drama. He has left upstate Idaho and come down to Boise to look for his son Alex, played by Daniel Petzold. Alex is barely coping with reality, and his job as cashier at Boise's Hobby Lobby is the only thing he's got. When Will finds him and takes a job at the same store, it puts Alex in an impossible situation.
Luckily for Alex, he's got a protector: his stepbrother Leroy, played by Patrick Russell. Leroy is crazy, but he's got a plan -- to protect his little brother from his evangelist father, whose exit from the cult in northern Idaho has been well documented on the local news.
We particularly love the two women in the cast. Gwen Loeb plays Hobby Lobby supervisor Pauline with irreverent gusto, lobbing constant curses at everyone, to the dismay of Will who is still not ready to hear the Lord's name taken in vain. Pauline takes everyone's name in f-ing vain.
Meanwhile, silent Anna (Megan Trout) is as damaged as Alex. She is frightened by all contact and hints at a terrible situation at home. She and Will discover that neither has anywhere else to go, which is why they have taken to sneaking into the Hobby Lobby break room after hours. Trout's portrayal of Anna harkens back to her role as Grete in the Aurora's 2011 "Metamorphosis." Anna's present is grim, her past was sordid and we see little hope for her in the future.
Religion is the elephant in playwright Samuel D. Hunter's room. "A Bright New Boise" is about the search for meaning in life. The corporate video, which all Hobby Lobby employees are required to watch, is the obvious Big Lie. But hoping that humanity perishes so that the Rapture may begin is its destructive counterpart. When Will screams "Now, Lord! Now! Now!" we are relieved that the only thing that falls is the curtain.
RATINGS: ☼ ☼ ☼ BANG
The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards "A Bright New Boise" Three Stars with a Bangle of Praise. Writing, staging and performances by the ensemble cast merit one star each. The Bangle of Praise is for the little things -- the corporate video/medical video, the way the antiseptic lunch room becomes a haven for lost souls, the hints at sexuality issues without becoming specific. This is a show that will stay with you.
"A Bright New Boise"
2081 Addison Street, Berkeley
Through Dec. 8