A BRIGHT NEW BOISE by Samuel D. Hunter – Off Broadway Theater Review

by Michael Narkunski on September 20, 2010

in Theater-New York

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Coming into The Wild Project you will be kindly informed that there are drinks for sale and that you are allowed to bring them into the show. You might prefer to not have any distractions for such crisp, idiosyncratic performances, and you might not be thirsty enough to want to gulp over such attuned, effortless dialogue, but my suggestion is you go for it—A Bright New Boise, set almost fully in the break room of an Idaho Hobby Lobby, plays on the themes of ambition, surrender and the suburban struggle with meaning in all the ways that demand a bottle of beer. That is, of course—according to protagonist Will (Andrew Garman)—unless you have religion.

Not that he means to push it on anybody. At least, that’s what our questionably stalwart hero claims when he comes to work at the same chain-store as his long lost teenage son, Alex (Matt Farrabee), with whom he wishes to reconnect. He even keeps the fact that he was a church bookkeeper off his resume for head manager Pauline (exquisite alarmist Danielle Slavick), although the fact that his pastor turned out to be a lunatic murderer may have been a factor. But yet despite his quiet, likable manner, and the sincerely moved reactions he has to Alex’s music, angst, and hilariously bad performance art, Will’s past and beliefs continually poke out and haunt him, mucking up his plans for a new life.

A Bright New Boise is special in that it is not so much a crisis-of-faith play as it is a study in Will’s non-crisis-of-faith and the impossible situation fervor sets up for him and his fellow, soft-skulled employees, who can’t seem to turn off those gross surgeries that keep popping up on the break room TV (“Um leave it on… no no turn it off… wait!”). You’d usually need to see a documentary film or good reality television to see social dynamics like this at work, but playwright Samuel D. Hunter has so sharply observed his home state (holey socks, Chef Boyardee) and the psychology of the religious that New York theater now gets its turn to tell the chilling truth about the quiet tyranny of people’s “truths.” Which is a great thing—that is, of course, unless you have religion.

michaelnarkunski @ stageandcinema.com

photos by Stephen Taylor

A Bright New Boise is scheduled to close October 2 at time of publication
for tickets, visit http://www.partialcomfort.org/

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