San Diego Actor · Writer · Creator
Photo by: Darren Scott

“A Bright New Boise”… Break Room Drama Finely Acted At OnStage Playhouse.

Samuel D. Hunter’s dark 2011 Obie Award winning play “A Bright New Boise” is on stage now at OnStage Playhouse through Sept 1st. New artistic chief, James P. Darvas, taking over the helm from Teri Brown, feels a connection to the characters in Hunter’s play, their aloneness and their loneliness. Bringing like minded people together is a goal for all theatre companies and it is his wish that we feel the connectedness. As his first choice out of the box, he is to be commended for mounting a play that will surely prove to be controversial.

The five-character play focuses in on four very broken and lonely people looking to connect, or not. Alex (Devin Wade), a compulsive obsessive almost suicidal teenager, Anna (Carla Navarro), looking for love in all the wrong places, and big loud say it like it is, Leroy (Markus Rodriguez) are employees of the big box Hobby Lobby -you do it your self- craft store.

Pauline (Holly Stephenson) is their fearless foul-mouthed store manager: “It was chaos when I took over and now I’m committed to an ecosystem that I worked hard to ‘craft’ and no one better dare upset it”.

Will (Salomón Maya) who is interviewing for the one part time job open in Boise, has incentives to move from cashier in Albertson’s in Couer d’Alene to Boise, and before that from Rathdrum, Idaho for a part time job there is twofold; he was involved in a controversial (rapture cult) church scandal up north.

He was one of the senior members, but found not complicit, ergo he wants away from it all, and he has traced the DNA of his biological son, put up for adoption as a babe to drunk and abusive parents, to Boise where he is now working for the summer in the Hobby Lobby craft store.

Will is at the center of Hunter’s play. He brings with him a backpack of secrecy, mystery and vulnerability. He has motives and incentives: one is to connect with his biological son, Alex, who just happens to be Leroy’s adoptive confrontational brother and the only one who knows about the quilting supplies in the store. (Job security). Aside from keeping Alex safe and away from the hands of Will, Leroy discovers Will’s secret past and threatens to expose him if he continues contact with Alex.

Both secrets reveal themselves as Will, a perfectly suited Maya, a writer/producer in his own right, is the epitome of a mild, lonely and secretive Evangelical fanatic waiting for Armageddon. That in turn compels him to write about the Rapture and Absolution. He’s is a find for this role. Look for more sightings of him in other productions.

The play unfolds in a series of brief vignettes.

Will uses the company break room to write his story on his computer since electricity is scarce where he lives. It is here he meets up with Alma who has a crush on him and makes no bones about it. But his encounters with Alex tip the scales of reason and acceptability as each do a dance on how best to receive information and how best to keep the conversation going.

Hunter’s complicated, with too many sub plots play is bolstered by an excellent cast fully immersed in character study and committed to excellence (thanks to Darvas) that it makes the play palpable to one who knows nothing about Fundamental Christianity and if given the chance would look at it with a grain of cynicism.

Devin Wade is standout as the tightly wound up wounded teen who wants to be a composer “like performance art”, lets Will listen but can’t look while he’s performing. His threatening pronouncements of killing himself get a bit old hand, but then again… His transitioning from abused to accepting draws a wonderful arc.

Cara Navarro’s Anna, drawn into Will’s sincerity, or so she imagines, is credible as another abused character trying to break the cycle by immersing her self in books that she was not allowed to read at home, and Markus Rodrigues is the flamboyant but almost comic figure sucking the energy out of the break room by shocking everyone with his themed T shirts and red polished nails.

Holly Stephenson’s Pauline is constant as the put upon store manager working to make her store profitable while managing a group of misfits in the back room. Taking Will at his word as she interviews him for the first time, she manages to intimidate him into not even thinking about joining a union and accepting the part time status even though the hours are longer, 38 hours, than part time. She has time and cajones on her side. “I’ll take you in full time as soon as I can.

Salomón Maya’s Will, who still believes in God and is willing to begin again, is steady and convincing, and repeating thoughts as mild, lonely and secretive also serves the playwright well sending his message of shared complacency as the world turns and no one listens yet everyone talks the good talk.

Technical assistance comes from Erica Livingston as lighting director, MaeAnn Ross as sound designer and Sandra Ruiz costume designer and Jadelin Boldenow’ set with a TV running How To’s in the craft store when the internet wasn’t interrupting with how to do eye or ear surgery.

The set, a break room setting, an outside parking lot and entrance to the store and street light constructed by Jesus Morena, Duane McGergor and Jadlen Boldenow make fine use of the long narrow stage in downtown Chula Vista.

Many questions came up for my theatre buddy and myself; she a non believer and I a believer but with reservations made it home not in agreement with the play, as in the prickly issues of faith and religion, but in full agreement that the acting is well worth considering.

Source: Gila Two
Author: Carol Davis

Latest Post