The Column Online



by Samuel D. Hunter

Resolute Theatre Project

Will – Steve Cave
Pauline – Lindsay Hayward
Alex – Ethan Armstrong
Anna – Celeste Perez
Leroy – Connor Wedgeworth

Director – Danny Macchietto
Producers – Amy and Steve Cave
Stage Manager – Jessica Graham
Set Design – Danny Macchietto
Lighting/Video Design – Branson White
Sound Design – Joshua Hahlen and Danny Macchietto
Costume/Prop Design – Heather Macchietto

Reviewed Performance: 11/3/2018

Reviewed by Stacey Upton, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

Set in a chilly parking lot and a Hobby Lobby breakroom, “A Bright New Boise” is an excellent if unpretty play that explores topics such as the meaninglessness of life, the oppression found in small towns, parental and personal responsibilities, and the pitfalls of believing whole-heartedly in an apocalyptic Rapture. The writer won the Obie award for this play, and rightfully so – the dialogue, offbeat characters, and the twists and turns of this edgy, dark comedy will keep you on the edge of your seat. It’s purposefully an evening of challenging theatre, but served up with love, strong performances, and heart.

The cast at Resolute Theatre Project is well up to the task of bringing us into the world of the play. Set in an intimate studio space with seating for an audience of twenty-five or so people, the danger of a play with such explosive topics is that it could overwhelm and alienate its audience rather than inviting them into the world. The cast performs this piece with a muted energy that does not put us off, but instead heightens the tension as new revelations emerge about who this quirky set of people are in the break room. The cast rarely raise their voices above a conversational level, thus the show becomes highly effective in the choice moments they do let loose with a full-throated roar about the inner rage and despair of their characters. The cast is pitch-perfect in their ability to perform this challenging piece and get their audience to think, and engage and even laugh numerous times. Director Danny Macchietto is to be commended for his excellent scene work within the context of the play, and mindfulness of the tiny space he is working with. There is also clear director vision at work, as every piece of the show from costume choices to the weird images on a video feed to the chilling final moments of the play cohere into an excellent night of theatre that encourages its audience to plumb its own beliefs.

Steve Cave plays Will, the lead character whose past is filled with regret. He is conflicted and pulled in many directions as he tries to find a path for his life. Cave’s performance is understated in every way, but also spot-on and terrifying as he reveals what his belief means for the rest of us. He is an everyman who has made faith-based choices that have resulted in misery for him. Yet… he still believes. This is a complicated role played with magnificent simplicity by an actor who trusts his craft. Cave has found ways to make this odd little man come to life in a way that makes you sympathetic towards him, even as you slowly realize how deeply his flaws run. This is a remarkable performance.

Lyndsey Hayward as Pauline the Hobby Lobby store manager is a mess of quirks and OCD behaviors. Her profanity-laced dialogue masks a fear that she will fail in her job, bringing the dreaded corporate. “We have to call them to do anything” down on her. She seeks to bring order out of chaos. Hayward’s performance is loud, histrionic and often very funny, and she brings a good energy to the stage, the perfect juxtaposition to Cave’s understated Will.

Ethan Armstrong’s performance as the tormented, misunderstood, profoundly lost soul Alex is good. It’s another unusual role, as we are never quite sure when Alex is lying. Armstrong is a young performer, but he is able to soar through the wide range of emotions called for by this role. He is particularly effective as he tries to understand his relationship with Will, who abruptly announces he is Alex’s biological father. First defiant and defensive, and later yearning for a connection that may not be possible, Armstrong brings a consistently strong performance.

Celeste Perez as Anna is a delight. Her mousey rendition of the role becomes endearing. She is a light in the midst of lots of darkness, but she can’t see it. The play needs her sweetness, and she plays her role with a daffiness that is both comedic and sad. It’s a lovely, nuanced, quiet performance that packs a wallop. This is her first production in Dallas since her graduation from college, and one hopes to see her in many more shows. Conner Wedgeworth as Alex’s artistic half-brother LeRoy is another standout in this show. He is brash, bold, and in-your-face with his opinions, and is the only person in the play truly rooted in reality. Wedgeworth manages his slew of profanity with glee, while his genuine care and compassion for Alex shines. His scenes with Will are taut with emotion, and among the best in the play. He also brings a needed energy to this piece.

The set by director Danny Macchietto is perfect. It utilizes the physical space of the studio beautifully. He has given his audience enough space to be removed from the action of the stage so that we can be observers, rather than being attacked. His use of existing studio equipment and doorways is clever, and the bland utilitarian space is exactly what the script calls for. Costumes and props by Heather Macchietto are also excellent. This is an oddly prop-heavy piece for such a small-scope play, and each one is picked with care. The costuming for all the characters is spot on for Hobby Lobby employees in a small town. It is the detail that works – of course Will wears white socks with his dingy shoes, of course he does.

Lighting and the sometimes gag-inducing video design by Branson White are unique and excellent. They serve this dark comedy perfectly. The images that pop on to Hobby Lobby’s ubiquitous video system are funny and grotesque by turns. His use of the practical lights of the dance studio this play is performed in is inspired, as they are exactly what you would see in a run-down, sad little Hobby Lobby.

A Bright New Boise runs from November 2nd through Sunday, November 11th. All tickets $18
Performances are at Amy’s Studio of Performing Arts, 11888 Marsh Lane, Ste. 600, Dallas, TX 75234
Tickets and more information:
This show contains profanity.