Boom (Review)

Know Theatre opens season with an offbeat comedy

The ability to predict the end of life on Earth is a mixed blessing for Jules (Joshua Murphy), a character in Boom, the new play by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb opening Know Theatre of Cincinnati’s 2009-10 season. The awkward marine biologist believes he has incontrovertible evidence because the fish he studies seem to sense an impending disaster undetectable by humans. He plans to be prepared to repopulate the planet by placing an ad on Craigslist to find a suitable mate.

Unfortunately, Jo (Alison Vodnoy) and Jules are about as compatible as oil and water, and once the disaster actually happens they find themselves trapped in his underground lab with a weird collection of supplies: Cheerios, Maker’s Mark, Chef Boyardee, tampons and disposable diapers. It’s an intriguing premise, but Nachtrieb pushes it even farther.

The playwright has created a frame for this tale that involves a third character, Barbara (Liz Vosmeier), who has some strange power over what’s happening to Jo and Jules. It becomes evident in ways that some will find amusing, while others might be annoyed or confused at how the couple’s plight — and ultimately Barbara’s — plays out.

Nachtrieb has a good ear for contemporary dialogue, and the actors throw themselves into this absurdist tale with manic energy, as directed by Drew Fracher. There is a message within Boom, one that can be taken in an oddly optimistic way. But to say more would give away some of the humor, so you’ll have to see for yourself.

Boom is cleverly staged (the “cast” includes several fish) and uses a zippy musical soundtrack and other sonic dimensions that add to the play’s humor. Nachtrieb is a witty writer, although his skill feels a tad overworked in this show.

If offbeat comedy is your thing, you should give Boom a try.

BOOM, presented by Know Theatre of Cincinnati, continues through Nov. 7. Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue details here.