“A Bright New Boise” written by Samuel D. Hunter
This Week in Theatre – Rose Desena
The Rogue Machine never ceases to amaze me.
It’s not just the quality of their productions; it is about the risks they are willing to take. Samuel D Hunter’s plays are risky. They are well written, and he has really has mastered the art of getting under one’s skin.
His current productions– “The Whale,” running in NYC, and “A Bright New Boise” have the same theme. Both scripts are about a man who wants to reconnect with his estranged child.
In “A Bright New Boise,” it’s his son. The father, Will (Matthew Elkins), is someone most of us would find very distasteful. As a matter of fact, in both plays the father is a character that one might have little sympathy for.
In the “Whale,” he is a 600 pound man who is still eating when he reaches out to his estranged daughter. I only mention this because I think to understand this play you need to have a little background on the writer. I wonder if Hunter has father issues. I have not seen the “Whale,” but “A Bright New Boise” is entertaining and funny at times but it does have a very dark side. It seems that Hunter has total contempt for all his characters.
In “A Bright New Boise,” Will is an obsessed, religious fanatic who is forced to leave his defunct cult-like compound after the death of a young man. He locates his son, Alex (Erik Odom), in the city of Boise and plans on surprising him. Perhaps this sudden interest in his son was brought on by guilt. Maybe it was a sudden reaction to the loss of the young man he was friends with at the church? Or maybe it’s all about redemption? I never really figured that out.
Will manages to get a job at a store called the Hobby Lobby, and he gratefully accepts the $7.25 an hour job. But before he even signs the contract, his son walk in. This starts the personal and twisted relationships that shape the play.
Everyone in this play is socially dysfunctional. Even the TV in the break room has a screw lose. It only has one channel, with two company staff executives (Rob Dodd and Ron Bottitta) discussing the products. But informational training videos are not all that are on this one channel TV. Hunter uses the TV as a message.
The TV switches by itself to a medical station where we see gruesome operations being performed. This happens throughout the play. According to the manager, this was due to a faulty satellite. What was fascinating to me was that none of the characters cared about these awful scenes on the TV. Are they that apathetic? They just accepted it, like a punishment from the management. If it were me sitting in the break room when the TV switched, I think I would have turned it off. Hello!
John Perrin Flynn (director) does a good job getting his actors to express their characters. The manager of the store, Betsy Zajko (Pauline), is hard and efficient as she tries to run the business around the emotional turmoil. All she needs in life is to succeed as the top manager of the Hobby Lobby. There is a woman who befriends Will, Heather L. Tyler (Anna), a mousy woman who can’t hold a job and is bullied by her father and her faith. Will and Anna start a secret friendship after they discover that they like to hide out together in the break room after the store closes. He writes on his laptop about God, and she reads the same book that she has been reading for years.
All the characters in this play are bullied. Will, by his religion, Pauline, by the company executives, Alex, and Anna, by life itself, and Leroy (Trevor Peterson), Alexi’s older brother who tries to protect him from Will, by the conservative lifeless society that surrounds him. He was the only character in the play that seems to be somewhat functional. He makes t-shirts with vulgar slogans and constantly tried to wear them to work. He just likes offending people.
Will is so caught up in his religion he doesn’t see it is causing his misery. In the end, his obsession is his downfall, and his ranting causes him to fail at the very thing he set out to accomplish. It’s as if everyone in this play is in their own private Idaho.
This is a deep, intellectual play that is worth seeing. The acting is excellent as is the staging and the production quality. Somehow the play works. It’s really pretty good and will make you laugh, think, and be grateful you’re not one of them.
Writer, Samuel D Hunter; Director, John Perrin Flynn
Ensemble: Ron Bottitta, Rob Dodd, Matthew Elkins, Erik Odom, Trevor Peterson, Heather L. Tyler, Betsey Zajko
October 20th through December 9, 2012
5pm Saturdays, 7pm Sundays, and 8pm Mondays
5041 Pico Blvd., LA, CA 90019
For Reservations: 855-585-5185