TAMPA — In local and regional theaters around the country, the biggest hit of the current season has been boom!, an odd little comedy about kidnapping, evolution and the end of the world.
Jobsite Theater's production shows why Peter Sinn Nachtrieb's play holds such appeal. It's simple and amiable, at least on its surface, and though it doesn't demand a whole lot of its audience, it's sufficiently intriguing and thought-provoking.
It doesn't evoke a lot of big laughs, but it doesn't really try to. The scattered jokes are successful enough, but on the whole boom! is more fun than funny.
No doubt one huge reason this production works so well is its three-person cast — Chris Holcom, Geneva Rae and Summer Bohnenkamp-Jenkins — who, together with director Kari Goetz, serves up a good balance between the absurdity and silliness in the script and the requisite realism and humanity of at least two of the characters.
Holcom is Jules, a gay, geeky scientist who foresees the imminent destruction of the Earth. His colleagues scoff at his theory, based on the odd behavior of the fish he studies, so he barricades himself in an underground laboratory with Jo (Rae), a stranger who has answered his personal ad for a sex partner. He plans to re-establish the human race, but his impotence and Jo's uncooperativeness make that prospect seem unlikely.
Watching over the proceedings, sometimes providing commentary and sometimes seeming to control the action, is Bohnenkamp-Jenkins as Barbara, bizarrely dressed and coiffed — kind of as if Marge Simpson were one of the Transylvanians from The Rocky Horror Show — and alternately amusing and ominous. (Katrina Stevenson designed Barbara's delicious clothes and hair.) One of the neatest tricks about Nachtrieb's script is the way he very gradually doles out information about who Barbara is and what she's up to.
Holcom and Rae have their share of standout moments, and their relationship is tremendously amusing and wonderfully realized. But it's Bohnenkamp-Jenkins' bubbly performance that really makes sparkles.
Deft and constant little plot twists and revelations, along with clever lines and well-written dialogue, have made Nachtreib's play popular with theater companies. Engaging characterizations in the Job4site production will go a long way toward making it popular with audiences.
Marty Clear is a freelance writer who specializes in performing arts. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.