photo by Stan Barouh
Joshua Morgan, Company Member Emily Townley, Felipe Cabezas, Company Member Michael Russotto, and Company Member Kimberly Gilbert
Woolly Mammoth’s A Bright New Boise takes a look into the heart of those who seem excited to see the world come to an end and brings us along for the ride. Which you might think would be a huge and momentous ride, given that the end of everything might be kind of a big deal. But writer Samuel D. Hunter’s conclusion seems to be that its precisely because the day to day stakes are so low that someone might seek something so momentous. Not to mention final.
One person’s longing for judgment would make for pretty thin gruel, but Hunter’s script does what well-plotted emotional fiction should: tells a contained, interesting story that has echoes and implications far beyond what is purely on the page. The sketch is simple. Soft-spoken Will comes to town with a deliberately hidden past and gets a job at the Hobby Lobby. He works along side sharp and crass manager Pauline and three younger staff members, none of whom know what connects one of them to Will or his surprising past. Yet.
photo by Stan Barouh
Company Members Kimberly Gilbert and Michael Russotto
What Hunter put down on the page is realized deftly all over the stage. Michael Russotto plays Will’s outward calm and the inner uncertainty and turmoil it almost perfectly covers, never letting the contradictions that constitute him seem unreal. Townley and Cabezas make characters that might have been very one-note story devices into characters with depth and who show character development of their own. Alex is a believable troubled teen, and while we’re never quite sure what’s going on with him Joshua Morgan sells us that Alex doesn’t know either.
Kimberly Gilbert walks a tightrope almost as fine as Russotto. Her Anna turns out to be the counter to Will, twitchy and nervous where he’s reserved, grappling with some of the same questions and problems but picking solutions that couldn’t be much different. The emotional depth both bring is what lets the play work, and Gilbert is in some ways filling the Ginger Rogers role here – doing all the same moves as her partner, but with the added challenge of doing it all in heels and backwards. When your character is brooding over his plot point of a hidden past you’ve got something of a leg up on selling inner depth and conflict. Gilbert has to convince us that her flighty screwup has something more going on and she does so brilliantly.
If you’re feeling a little under-served in plot details here, good. A Bright New Boise is without question a character piece first, but I’m convinced that coming in and learning what’s going on at the same time as the characters is the best way to follow their arc. I’d suggest you take someone with you to talk about it afterwards, though. It’s killing me to keep from peeling the onion, as it were, right in front of you.
A Bright New Boise runs through November 6th at Woolly Mammoth
Woolly Mammoth is located at 641 D Street, NW and is convenient to both the Chinatown (green, red, yellow) and Archives (green, yellow) metro stops. For more information, call 202-393-3939.