March to a Different Drummer: boom

“Peter Sinn Nactrieb’s play flips from pants-around-the-ankles comedy to hipster Twilight Zone takeoff… boom is imaginative and easy to like.” –The New Yorker

Boom. Boom, boom, boom goes Kitchen Dog Theater. Inspired by ominous percussive cascades played by an on stage actor assaulting a drum machine with gusto, the focal characters in Peter Sinn Nactrieb’s 2008 play about apocalypse, boom, embark on new relationships, fight dirty, struggle to survive, reflect on corporate management and the nature of existence, and escape out into the void, or whatever awaits beyond their underground bunker confines. Primal essence meets societal veneer and the intricacies of social intercourse. “Newscaster hair keeps the public from going insane,” states one character. Truth, or fiction? On an Earth where a comet has destroyed the newscasts, along with everything newsworthy, what really matters?

Nactrieb writes complex, entertaining plays that lead an audience on a merry chase between reality which seems like fantasy and vice versa. In his 2007 award winning comedy The Hunter Gatherers, the seeming reality of two  “average” couples celebrating a joint wedding anniversary fast devolves into something wildly pinioned between a parody of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and a deathly mystery play portraying survival of the fittest. Nactrieb has a real knack for creating characters that seem utterly natural while in truth they have as much substance as cartoon personas. His imaginative, layered, highly visual dialogue and actionable plots offer appealing challenges to actors and directors conspiring to create metaphorical realities. At play’s end, there is always a point to the madness generated. It’s much fun to watch it roll out like a magic carpet ride piloted by Alice’s Mad Hatter.

Kitchen Dog Theater, with its customary penchant for bold, engaging visual statement, presents boom through March 13, 2010. Company member Christie Vela directs and fires up her production with as much dramatic intensity as a nuclear reactor. Dueling realities, or reeling dualities, amuse and fascinate the audience as Vela’s three actors flail about within interconnected but non-communicating worlds. KDT company member Karen Parrish as Barbara functions both as narrator, museum curator, self-pitying employee and unlikely percussionist. More catalyst and concept than part of the action, Parrish knits the play together as a comprehensible whole while presenting a Nactrieb signature “believable yet caricatured” persona. She’s one strange gal. The play’s slim thread to reality hangs on this character’s presentation. Parrish and director Vela clearly have aligned understanding of the role; Parrish hits her high notes in focused harmony in contrast to the seemingly more realistic plot thread. As the two mismatched inhabitants on display in “Barbara’s Museum”, Eric Steele as research scientist Jules and Jenny Ledel as youthful journalist Jo launch themselves into their theoretical reality with vengeance and physical adeptness. It’s a while before the audience realizes the altered, theoretical nature of their reality, but even then their well-balanced, strong performances arouse empathy.  “In no strings sex, hope is still possible.” As Vela tweaks the kaleidoscopic nature of boom’s perspective, each character responds as if a master puppeteer rules the universe.

For a fast-paced, witty performance of ricocheting, non-traditional theatre, you’ll go far to best Kitchen Dog Theatre’s production of Peter Sinn Nactrieb’s boom.

The Texas premiere of boom runs through March 13, 2010. For tickets and information, go to:

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