“Not if you were the last man on earth.” This sad rebuff has been bandied about since time immemorial. But, what if the fellow in question were in fact to become the last man on earth? However undesirable he may be, there are little matters like the survival of the human species to consider. It’s a predicament explored to wild and wacky effect in Boom, the clever comedy on stage at the Gamm this month.
The play begins with an awkward meeting, courtesy of a “Casual Encounters” ad on CraigsList. Jules, a geeky grad student, and Jo, a sexy journalism major, convene in his basement research lab. The space doubles as his apartment and resembles a pediatrician’s office, complete with dinosaur figurines and a big fish tank. His grant “didn’t cover housing,” he sheepishly explains.
Jo wants to get down to business, but Jules is all funny business. In a Star Wars tee and bright green briefs, he kills the mood with a constant stream of nervous chatter. Details about his water birth as a baby, his pet fish named Dorothy, and the fact that he just might be homosexual don’t help. Things go from bad to worse when Jo discovers a shockingly large stash of tampons and diapers in his cupboard. What exactly are this CraigsList creep’s intentions?
Well, Jules believes that a comet is about to crash into Earth and wipe out all life above ground. Whether it’s sound scientific theory or paranoid delusion, he is preparing for cosmic crisis and needs Jo to do the same. All the while, just beyond the basement wall, a perky museum guard named Barbara pulls levers and creates sound effects. It seems that Jules and Jo are neither alone nor, perhaps, masters of their own destiny. Are any of us? That’s another question Boom poses.
Brown grad Peter Sinn Nachtrieb developed the script at the Brown/Trinity Playwrights Repertory Theatre back in ‘07. With a bang-up premise, quick-witted dialogue, and creative plot twists, it’s easy to understand the show’s nationwide popularity. Fred Sullivan, Jr., a resident actor at Trinity Rep and resident director at the Gamm, helms the current production. He stamps it with his own finely tuned sense of comedic timing, keeping the pace lively and the tone fun. An incredible set design by Patrick Lynch and snappy sound design by David Tessier help to bring the story to life.
The high-energy, three-person cast includes Marc Dante Mancini as Jules. He plays the student with a disarming mix of doe-eyed innocence and survivalist strength — sweetly sympathetic, child-like and cheerful, but also fiercely focused. Gillian Williams’ Jo curses like a sailor, bemoans her fate, and does everything in her power to undermine Jules. For all her bitter ranting and raving, she reveals an inner vulnerability and a peek at how anyone might behave in her shoes. Wendy Overly’s Barbara, the mysterious museum guard, has both a sunny side and an axe to grind. She hams it up but also broaches the subjects of history, legacy, resilience, evolution, and our place in the universe.
Boom is an original, over-the-top, funny foray into science fiction — as delightfully outlandish as it is disturbingly plausible. It also makes you wonder what would happen to your standards if the end of the world really were to come. In sum, apocalypse wow!
Boom runs through April 8 at the Gamm Theatre.