Be careful responding to classified ads offering “intensely significant coupling.” That’s one of the hard lessons learned in “boom,” a penetratingly intimate comedy about cosmic events. But even with playwright Peter Sinn Nachtrieb’s dark and offbeat dialogue and Tony Caselli’s lightning-paced direction, this semi-sci fi satire lacks the appropriate chemistry for truly explosive laughs.
“boom” starts with a bang as Jo (Alissa Nordmoe), a 22-year-old journalism student responding the aforementioned ad, strips down for some purported sex. But Jules (Aral Gribble), a marine biology grad student, has longer-term plans in mind. According to Jules’ fishy observations, the imminent apocalypse means that Jo, Jules and his fully stocked lab/bomb shelter are humanity’s last hope for survival. Meanwhile, an unseen omnipotent figure Barbara (Sarab Kamoo) pulls levers, plays timpani and explains her own significance.
The play’s premise and confined setting could have made “boom” a claustrophobic thriller. Instead, the contrast of Jules’ sweetly na´ve nerdiness and Jo’s frantic nihilism — combined with constant slapstick —make “boom” ripe for hilarity. Both Gribble and Nordmoe banter with metronomic timing, nailing their blocking with laser precision. Still, that ripeness isn’t plucked until the second half when comic beats feel more natural, spontaneous and emotionally connected. Highlights include Gribble’s hyper-energetic “Lady Scoffington” impersonation and Nordmoe’s deadpan reply to Jules regarding the nature of her parent’s death.
Barbara, meanwhile, functions in her own world, as Kamoo masterfully delivers absurdly dry quips that tangentially jump off the frenzied action below — and successfully connect her character with the audience.
All three actors benefit from Janine Woods Thoma’s stunning scenic design, complete with a functioning fish tank along with various analog dials to render a functional looking set. Alex Gay’s sound design and Daniel C. Walker’s lighting design also accentuate the stage ambiance with shadows and loud rumbles.
The sweet spots for “boom” are somewhere between “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” and an episode of “The Twilight Zone,” providing a funny — and, at times, raunchy — romp through the end of the world.
Through Oct. 21
8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 3 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday
$20 Thursdays/$25 Friday-Saturday evenings/$22 matinees/$10 students/seniors $2 discount
122 S. Putnam St.