Through Oct. 4. 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays;
2:30 p.m. Sundays. $12-$15. Aurora Theatre, 128 Pike St., Lawrenceville. 678-226-6222, www.auroratheatre.com.
Bottom line: The modest beginning of an ambitious idea.
By Bert Osborne
The worst to be said for Aurora Theatre’s “Boom” is probably that it isn’t the most brilliant play ever written.
In Peter Sinn Nachtrieb’s apocalyptic absurdist comedy, what begins as a disastrous blind date for two quirky outcasts threatens to become an eternity for them — sequestered in an underground bunker, possibly sole survivors of the end of the world.
If the “future of humanity” depends on their coupling, you might count your blessings that you won’t be around for it. Jules is a geeky gay marine biologist, whose abnormally sheltered life literally includes four years spent on a desert island. Jo’s strident, overbearing demeanor masks her own social and sexual insecurities, but at least her sense of futility is understandable.
Meanwhile, to borrow from the play’s “Wizard of Oz” motif, pay no attention to that woman behind the invisible curtain. Off in a corner of Philip Male’s slick sci-fi set, Barbara operates all sorts of knobs, cords and levers — rewinding or fast-forwarding the couple’s story, freeze-framing pivotal scenes, providing sound effects (designed by Spencer Stephens) or mood music (on a handy timpani, no less).
Not unlike a museum curator, during occasional asides to the audience, Barbara comments on the action, or on life as we may soon know it — or, indeed, on the “physical, cognitive and budgetary limitations” of the very show. Whether she’s talking about her own “exhibit,” or about director Joe Gfaller’s Aurora production itself, is open to interpretation.
As the not-so-romantic misfits, Eve Krueger and Topher Payne are mildly pleasing. She’s done this spiel before (countless times at Dad’s Garage), but it’s nice to see him out of the usual drag he’s prone to hide behind (“Greater Tuna,” etc.).
(Note to costume designer Amanda Sutt: Consider a pair of longjohns for Jules. One scene requires Payne to strip to his boxers — in turn, requiring us to actually believe that a “sad hermit” like Jules, whose whole existence has been spent in a figurative fishbowl, would nevertheless have ornate tattoos on his leg!)
Time and again (“Boston Marriage,” “Glorious,” “The New Century”), the dazzling Shelly McCook is just cause to see anything. There aren’t many actors in town who would so craftily balance Barbara’s larger-than-life absurdity and her down-to-earth sentimentality.
Even so, the best to be said for Aurora’s “Boom” is that it marks an admirable step in a right direction for the Lawrenceville company, which typically caters to a more conservative (older) audience, with more conventional (older) fare.
In a small studio space off the lobby from the main stage, it’s the inaugural production of the theater’s new GGC Lab (sponsored by Georgia Gwinnett College and the Gwinnett Federal Credit Union), a program geared to gutsier, edgier material.
With its “R-rated” language and sex gags alone — forget all the extra existentialism — “Boom” is certainly that. The show often seems a bit too self-aware, bizarre for the sake of being bizarre. But it ain’t no “Kiss Me, Kate” or “Dial ‘M’ for Murder,” either, and that could be a cool thing.