nytheatre.com review by Matt Johnston
March 14, 2008
Peter Sinn Nachtrieb's Boom is probably one of the more unusual plays I've seen this year, both in terms of plot and storytelling. And while the dramaturgy at time suffers a few pitfalls, I would definitely recommend checking out this offering at the always reliable Ars Nova, even if it's just to see the wonderful visual aesthetic and the unique method of storytelling.
The plot surrounds a homosexual man who has put out a personal ad in a local paper for a woman. As the play opens, this woman is in his basement room, and it doesn't take her too long to discover that she is not exactly there for a date. That is, unless her version of a date happens to be conceiving to save the human race from extinction.
One of the more odd and fascinating facets of the storytelling is that it is presented in a way which is kind of like watching a play inside one of the display windows at Macy's during Christmas in New York. Outside of the window is a woman, from what appears to be the future, running the show for us and acting as our (frustrated) guide to the performance. Throughout the piece we continue to learn more about both her and the events we are watching on stage.
The unorthodox staging comes as no surprise since this play is directed by Les Freres Corbusier artistic director Alex Timbers (Gutenberg: The Musical!, Dixie's Tupperware Party). Every play I have seen Timbers direct does not have a fourth wall. He both creates and is drawn to projects that sever the line between audience and performer and question our assumptions of the proscenium theatre setup. Boom is no exception to this, as the layers between our expectations and what we see on stage are complicated and exciting at the same time. In a way, we as the audience become the subject of the play, as the "customers" watching the play inside of the play.
At times, the staging lingered a bit too long on specific moments or conflicts and took me out of the experience a bit, which I chalk up to issues in the way the play is written rather than the production. But luckily, Timbers's production manages to cover up these problems with a great measure of success. One other slightly puzzling aspect is the nature of the acting. It felt relatively over the top for all three characters, but I can see how that fits this production conceptually. I did have some trouble connecting with it at times, though.
The visual aesthetic of the play is fantastic. It looks beautiful, and the effects employed to highlight major shifts in plot are right on the money, and fit entirely with Timbers's concept of breaking the fourth wall throughout. Much credit should be given to set designer Wilson Chin and lighting designer Marcus Doshi for making that happen.
When all is said and done, despite the play's few problems, I would definitely recommend heading to Ars Nova and grabbing your ticket to Boom.