Director - Steven Pounders
Stage Manager - Sarahi Salazar
Set Design - Clare Floyd DeVries
Costume Design - Drenda Lewis
Lighting Design - John Leach
Properties Design - Meredith Hinton
Sound Design - David H.M. Lambert
Anna - Jenny King
Pauline - Morgan McClure
Alex - Michael McMillan
Leroy - Montgomery Sutton
Will - Chip Wood
Reviewed Performance 3/23/2013
Reviewed by Danny Macchietto, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
There is a moment in Circle Theatre's production of A Bright New Boise of a desperate man standing in a random parking lot with his eyes to the night sky and his hands open in prayer. "Now", he pleas repeatedly. "Now". We instantly sympathize with Will and want to know what hurts him. It is a pitch perfect moment that sets the right tone for Samuel D. Hunter's stirring, religious drama.
The next scene Will is being interviewed for a cashier job at a local Hobby Lobby store in Boise, Idaho. He is starting his life over, humbled, grateful and with purpose.
Most of the action takes place in the Hobby Lobby break room with an array of eccentric employees. We learn early on that Will is attempting to reconnect to his seventeen-year-old son and whom by no sheer coincidence, also works at the Hobby Lobby. Will gave him up for adoption when his son was two months old.
Will also had a mysterious falling out with an evangelical church due to a scandal involving the pastor. The story's narrative structure is episodic as each subsequent scene gradually pieces together the mystery to Will's secret prayer. His several failed attempts to reach out to his son are some of the play's most endearingly painful and poignant.
Will is impressively inhabited by Chip Wood. He is in every scene and his performance of a man deliberately taking in each moment as if it were under God's ever-watchful good grace makes A Bright New Boise a bona-fide success. This is not to take away from the collaged ensemble of intensely observed performances from the rest of the cast, all under the tightly-paced direction of Steven Pounders; however, the portrait of this man is so specific in its redemptive journey, that were not Mr. Wood's demeanor so wisely understated, the story might have risked running off the rails.
Will maintains a quiet intensity, always having to protect the privacy of his strong, religious beliefs, while each of the other characters project their insecurities and prejudices about their own church experiences on to him. Such discussions in any work environment always become a recipe for disaster, and playwright Hunter is keenly aware of this.
The entrances and exits of the other characters consistently have a refreshing and random spontaneity' giving the feel of a living, breathing break room space. Morgan McClure is Pauline, the store manager, who assumes the role of the agnostic of the bunch. Ms. McClure adds more depth to her character than the playwright perhaps intended, but all of her added nuances as the no-nonsense boss work as she is both the plays main source of comedic relief and the unwavering mother hen to her misfit employees. She nails a striking monologue at the play's midpoint, the character expounding on her hard work ethic to turn the store around to a business of profitability.
Jenny King is Anna, a cashier and a Faith Lutheran who, like Will, is prone to sneaking her way into the store well past closing for some extra quiet time. Ms. King does an excellent job handling her character's extremely inquisitive nature towards Will.
Michael McMillan plays the impressionable Alex, Will's biological son who has a history of panic attacks. His beliefs are undecided at a point in his life when he is most in need of a positive role model, if not the practice of an orthodox religion. Mr. McMillan's panic attacks never feel stagey. He is very effective in the scenes when his character maintains obsessive control of the conversations with his newly announced father. Montgomery Sutton plays Leroy, the rebellious college art student and is also the atheist of the crew. Leroy's asset to the store is that he's the only one on the team that knows anything about art supplies and seems to know the secret to Hobby Lobby's successful business model: "The customers are paying money to manufacture the product themselves". Leroy is also Alex's overly protective brother. Sutton is intense, and flirts often with going too over the top, but that is also the character's charm and necessity as a provocateur.
Costume designer Drenda Lewis selections were contemporary and appropriate and to age and character. The set design is assuredly realistic, with a layout that is clearly researched and practical for the break room setting that dominates the play. That should be no surprise to anyone that reads the program notes to learn that set designer Clare Floyd DeVries is also a licensed architect.
Sound Designer David H.M. Lambert deserves special kudos for his music selection. No credit is given as to whether the music is original compositions or selected from the repertoire of Phillip Glass, but minimalist piano scale variations for the house music and scene transitions are consistently effective. Lambert could have easily gone with a more eclectic pallet, giving the Mecca of personalities that conspire at this one place of business, but through the design's neutrality the audience isn't so easily swayed of what to make of these meetings of the minds.
At play's end we know what Will was praying for. It ends on an ambiguous note. I for one was left replaying in my head Will's two major life choices of which he could only choose one. I've met versions of Will at my church. Everyone reading this review has met versions of Will at any kind of church, or anywhere for that matter.
A Bright New Boise offers no easy answers, but I encourage you to make that very purposeful trip to Circle Theatre and offer your two cents worth if you would like to be a part of this conversation.
A BRIGHT NEW BOISE
Circle Theatre, 230 West 4th Street, Fort Worth, TX 76102
Runs through April 13th
Thursday at 7:30pm, Friday-Saturday at 8:00pm, and Saturday at 3:00pm.
Tickets range from $15.00 to $35.00. All tixs can be purchased online at www.circletheatre.com or by Calling 817-877-3040