Why would anyone want a job at The Hobby Lobby? A Parts-R-Us for those who can’t stop themselves from scapbooking, and otherwise decorating what is probably already an over-decorated house . . . The Hobby Lobby is a buzzing little hub of activity filled with the quaintest of characters. But again . . . why would anyone want a job there?
Specifically, why would Will (Andrew Garman) want a job there? He looks like he can do more than just handle a register – and goodness knows he’s certainly past the age where this job holds any challenge for him.
So . . . why?
As the lights rise on A Bright New Boise (written by Samuel D. Hunter and directed by Davis McCallum) we meet Pauline – tough, fast talking, get-the-job-done-and-ask-questions-later Pauline (Danielle Slavick) who manages The Hobby Lobby with an Iron Fist nestled in a Garden Glove. She’s interviewing Will, but the interview tells the audience more about Pauline than it does about Will. Namely that she’s here to work, to keep her ducks in a row, and to make sure that no one screws up. She’s got a heart, of course, but it’s hard to find it under that gruff exterior. She conducts the interview in a fast and furious way – the way she seems to do everything, only holding on to a thought, or a word or deed for as long as it serves its purpose before she’s off to the next thing.
When Will is told he’s gotten the job he’s “welcomed” by another worker, young Alex (Matt Farabee) who is withdrawn, sullen, prone to anxiety disorder, and fancies himself songwriter. In other words, Alex is a typical teenager. Only this teen has something else going for him – he’s the son Will left long ago, and he’s also the reason Will took this job. In essence – Alex is the “why”.
Leroy – a Fuck-The-Establishment artist who likes to make people uncomfortable by saying strange things, licking the containers in the refrigerator and wearing “message’ tees is another co-worker who is also – we learn – Alex’s older stepbrother. As in-your-face as he purports to be, when it comes to his younger brother, Leroy (John Patrick Doherty) has a soft spot that’s accessible at any moment should he find his brother threatened. Which, when you’re a kid with a panic disorder who just found out that his father is back in town, is quite frequent.
Wedged into this gang is Anna (Sarah Nina Hayon), a sweet gal who stays back every night after lights out in order to hide out in the break room of The Hobby Lobby so she can read. How convenient – Will (who is writing an Internet serial about The Rapture — yes, he’s THAT kind of religious) needing a place to write, is doing pretty much the same thing. They meet cute when Will happens upon Anna (surprise!) in the dark of the break room.
The reader and the writer strike up an sweet, touching, and altogether palpably awkward friendship that teeters on romance but never quite reaches it. They vow to stay out of each other’s way, but each is draw to the other’s story. Anna brings out Will’s lovely side, but at odd moments (like when an “oh my God” slips from her lips, prompting Will to beseech her to watch the cursing) she also brings out his not-all-there side.
And there’s a lot not-all-there when it comes to Will . . . he’s not the mild mannered do-gooder he seems (or even believes himself) to be. He’s not just at The Hobby Lobby to meet his son, he’s also running away from a scandal that happened at the hands of some religious zealots – specifically the pastor of the church where he was living. So, yes, there may be a little something going on in the still waters that runs deeper than anyone is prepared to swim in. There’s a tinge of madness to this man – as much as he is carved from kindness. And it’s that complexity that makes this whole story so fascinating.
We’re pulling for Will, we want him to find something with Anna – romantically or platonically, and moreover we want Will to be a savior to his son – a boy who slipped between the cracks of the system too many times with bad foster parents who have neglected him horrifically, and never saw the abuse put on him by many respected teachers and role models. Alex has been damaged and craves something beyond the lesson of meaninglessness offered to him by his well meaning but screwed up foster brother.
Humorous at times there’s more to this play than a few laughs and broad character studies. By juxtaposing these deeply flawed people playwright Samuel D. Hunter has created a masterful microcosm of a spinning world where everyone is just trying to hold on in their own way. At some point, each character has their moment to explain who they are – or who they think they are – or who they wish they were. These beautifully written moments are layers that present the audience with each character’s complete life – the joys the pains the past regrets the future hopes. Each actor brings a nuanced performance that moves quickly from likable to disdainful and all the points in between with stunning realism. These are people you feel you know well, and can imagine befriending should you ever find yourself working at The Hobby Lobby for whatever reason.
Davis McCallum directs this play and somehow manages to make it bigger yet smaller at the same time. It’s both very intimate and personal, yet supremely universal. A Bright New Boise puts a human face behind many stereotypes and shows how everyone has a story that can touch you and resonate with you, despite your apparent differences.
Samuel D. Hunter has delivered a gem that does what great theatre should always do – starts you off laughing, and leaves you with a furrowed brow, wondering what happens to all the characters after the lights go out.
~~~~A Bright New Boise Presented by Partial Comfort Productions running noow through October 2, 2010 Wed. – Sat. 8:00pm The Wild Project 195 E. 3rd Street (between Avenue A & B) NYC Tickets are $18 Call 212-352-3101 or click here