BWW Review: A BRIGHT NEW BOISE at OnStage PLayhouse
A BRIGHT NEW BOISE, by Samuel D. Hunter is a dark comedy about connection, decisions made, consequences earned, and trying to find profit in retail while one employee is actively praying to the Prophet to bring on The Rapture.
Set in the break room of a Hobby Lobby, the play opens with manager Pauline (Holly Stephenson) interviewing Will (Salomón Maya) for a part time position. Though he is socially awkward, and a bit twitchy, his past experience gets him hired and Pauline goes off to start his paperwork. When Alex (Devin Wade) the teenage employee who has social awkwardness of his own, comes into the breakroom Will uses this as a chance to introduce himself to the son who never knew him. To say that it's awkward is an understatement.
When Leroy (Markus Rodriguez) Alex's fiercely protective adopted older brother, and "the only person in the entire store that knows anything about art " finds out about Will he makes it clear Alex should be left alone. Anna (Carla Navarro) is another employee who is sweet but directionless, and who loves to read but rarely gets the ending that she desires. She tries to befriend Will but finds connecting with him to be difficult.
The play starts as a comedy pushing the buttons and the comfront level of the characters, and the audience, with increasingly fraught situations (and Pauline's language). As Alex's disdain for Will slowly dissolves into curiosity painful truths are uncovered for everyone.
Will has moved down to the area not just to connect with his son, but also to escape his past from a controlling religious cult and the role his belief indirectly played in the death of a young man. Alex has more in common with Will than just social awkwardness - he is also looking for connection and a sense of belonging and being understood.
Leroy may try seek attention and admiration from a limp attempt at shock value art via clothing, but his pursuit of an MFA and his devotion to Alex shows a softer side. Anna is forever stuck wanting more but unable to find the backbone to truly change her circumstances. Pauline just wants the store that she has put her blood, sweat, and tears into to succeed - even with this dysfunctional staff of hers.
The entire cast is top notch and as these characters unravel you can see they are all fighting a sense of loneliness, and disconnection from the world around them. Each is trying to use something - literature, work, art, music, and religious beliefs - to bring a sense of order and meaning to their lives. After all, as Will says, "Otherwise, I'm a bad father working at a Hobby Lobby, living in his car."
Maya is excellent as the strictly religious and intense Will, matched by Wade's intense but impressionable Alex. Stephenson is very funny and believable as the perpetually annoyed Pauline who is trying to avoid having to do employee conflict resolution and Navarro's Anna is sweet and strikes the right balance of wishing for better things but lacking the drive to make it happen. Rodriguez as Leroy is both fierce and funny as the older brother trying to keep the only family he loves from falling apart.
Directed by James P. Darvas the show is an interesting exploration on decisions we make, how people try to impose order and find meaning in the chaos that is our lives, while remaining darkly funny, poignant, and thought provoking.
A BRIGHT NEW BOISE is playing at OnStage Playhouse in Chula Vista through September 1st. For theatre ticket and show time information go to www.onstageplayhouse.org
Photo Credit: Daren Scott