Once you catch up with the unusual rhythm of Peter Sinn Nachtrieb’s “Boom” at R-S Theatrics, you’re in for a wild, apocalyptic ride that resembles Theatre of the Absurd and a broad dose of sci-fi as it may have been presented in “The Twilight Zone.” It may be real, it may be imagined, it may be in the future, it’s definitely narrated by a character reminiscent of a docent in a museum. What it is for sure is highly entertaining.
Jo, a journalism student, has answered an ad for “sex that will bring you to the end of the world” (or words of a similar nature). Sounds like a casual, uncomplicated hook up but she finds something different when she meets Jules in his laboratory in a basement of one of the college academic buildings. He has another plan in mind- preparing for the end of the world as predicted by his fish. He is, after all, a marine biologist and is studying the random and unusual recent nature of the fish in his tank. He believes it signals impending doom.
Elizabeth Van Pelt is a diminutive and enticing Jo as she battles tooth and nail with the obsessive Jules, given a strong and vibrant portrayal from Andrew Kuhlman. Although he claims to be homosexual, they soon get rather hot and heavy in some pre-apocalyptic entangling. The end eventually comes to fruition (or so we’re led to believe) but is it really? Because Jo and Jules and the whole impending doom seem to be manipulated by our onstage “Rod Serling” in the guise of Barbara- a powerful and hilarious performance by Nancy Nigh. Beating on drums, flipping levers and interjecting pithy commentary on the two would-be lovers’ cat and mouse game, she’s a cross between a guide and a goddess as she seems to be calling the shots from her upstage podium a la the Wonderful Wizard of Oz- which may mean she has little power other than sound and fury signifying nothing.
This whole out of body experience is cleverly directed by Sarah Lynne Holt who runs with the absurdity and allows the audience to decide for themselves if they should read between the lines. Keller Ryan’s set design displays the Chapel’s versatile space as he uses both the small stage (leaving a bit of room for a few audience members there) and runs the action down through the center of the normal audience space- allowing seating on both sides. Nathan Schroeder’s lighting design picks it all up very well and Mark Kelley’s sound adds the right touches.
From the often awkward and uncomfortable coupling (which often involves Jo leaping into the arms of Jules- even off the stage- good catch, Andrew!) to the outlandish premise and quirky dialogue to the unusual finale, “Boom” is something you don’t want to miss just because you won’t believe what you’re watching. As Rod Serling might have said, “a dimension of sight, a dimension of sound, a dimension of mind- you’re entering the absurdist Twilight Zone.” “Boom” plays at R-S Theatrics through December 4th. Give them a call at 314-252-8812 for tickets or more information.