Dobama Theatre’s “A Bright New Boise” Takes on Religion with Equal Parts Comedy and Realism
By Marjorie Preston
Dobama Theatre’s current production, “A Bright New Boise,” by Samuel D. Hunter, confronts religion’s effect on each of the characters working at a Hobby Lobby in Boise, Idaho. Religion may be a coping mechanism, but in this drama that is also heavily comic, it is an escape from the harsh realities of life.
Newcomer to Boise, Will (Tom Woodward), hopes to start a new life and leave behind a church scandal in the Coeur d’Alene area as he seeks out the son put up for adoption against his wishes over a decade ago. Will finds his son, no longer named William, but now called Alex (Andrew Deike), and working in a Hobby Lobby with the angry Leroy (Brian Devers), another teen being raised in the same home as Alex. Will also encounters his new boss, hard-working, chatty, frustrated Pauline (Kristy Kruz), and his shy bookworm coworker Anna (Kim Krane).
Samuel D. Hunter paints with a broad brush full of cliches here. Of course, the agnostic Pauline is self-absorbed and more interested in consumer culture than her soul. Of course, the Lutheran Anna is meek and unassuming. Of course the evangelical Will is convinced he’s right to the exclusion of facts from the outside world. And that leaves confused, distrustful teenage boys Alex and Leroy unclear who to turn to, sensitive Alex having panic attacks regularly and Leroy, a bright art school student working in a retail store while raging against consumerism.
But the script is also deeply funny: in act two, becoming achingly personal in its treatment of religion, as Will admits out loud the reason he clings to his faith: to keep from confronting the realizations that he has abandoned his kid and works at a Hobby Lobby.
Director Nathan Motta has a smart script the actors can sink their teeth into, and they do, from the very first scene where the ever-funny Kruz, as the hiring manager, does more talking than interviewing but still manages to note the one inconsistency in Woodward’s resume, and continuing on to stilted conversations in scenes between Woodward and Deike, who as Alex, overloads easily. Deike plays him as fevered, squirrely, and nihilistic.
Scenic Designer Connie Hecker has decorated a Hobby Lobby break room with the requisite employee information board and inspirational posters to go with the TV and soda machine. Lighting Designer Marcus Dana’s industrial fluorescent lighting, flickering between scenes, adds the perfect touch to this tidy, mundane office setting. The break room set crumbles away at its edge into a parking lot set with a light pole in a large cement block.
The cast of “A Bright New Boise” rises to the occasion and delivers a thoroughly engrossing, thought-provoking and funny evening of theater.
“A Bright New Boise” plays at Dobama Theatre, 2340 Lee Road in the West Wing of the Cleveland Heights Main Library, Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. through November 18. Tickets are available at www.dobama.org or by calling (216) 932-3396. The play contains adult language and situations.