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A CurtainUp Review
Bright New Boise

Like a process, like an artistic process, yep I get that.— Anna, trying to understand writer's block.
A Bright New Boise
Andrew Garman in A Bright New Boise
(Photo: Stephen Taylor)
In New York City, we find ways to separate ourselves from the middle of the country constantly. Perhaps it's about the multitude of big-box stores, or maybe the prevalence of Pentecostal churches. Or lack of higher education, or exposure to art. . . point being, A Bright New Boise (as in Boise, Idaho) forces us to meet some real people, who all work in a big chain store in Boise. Some of them are religious, some graduated from high school, some have an interest in art. All of them, like every one of us city folk, are searching for meaning and purpose in their lives

The play opens with a job interview with Will (Andrew Garman), who quickly becomes The Hobby Lobby's newest employee. He has recently moved from a small town, for reasons unknown. As the manager Pauline exits the breakroom for paperwork, a teenage cashier enters and Will seems fascinated. We quickly find out the young Alex (Matt Farabee) is his biological son. This crucial tidbit is literally how Will introduces himself to a stunned, silent Alex.

As it turns out, Will was a part of a small, cultish church that recently disbanded over a controversy. His search for new direction in life led him to his biological son, with hopes of finally having a relationship with him, and perhaps even a new life. Certainly, Will's intention is at least for a new start.

We meet a couple other Hobby Lobby employees. There's the sweet Anna (Sarah Nina Hayon) who seems to have a lot in common with Will and quickly becomes fond of him. Then there's Leroy, Alex's foster brother who is aggressively protective of Alex, and an angry conceptual artist to boot.

Playwright Samuel D Hunter could have easily taken a preachy point of view to these people's less than ideal lives, but he doesn't. He also could have written a play filled with the quick, unfair judgments we make of Evangelical middle America, but he doesn't really do that, either. Instead, this is a play about escape: how we all need a way to escape reality. Will has his faith in God (and had his church), Leroy has his art, Pauline puts all her energy into The Hobby Lobby, and Anna has books. Alex may currently have music, but he is struggling to find his true form of escape. Unfortunately, as we see in this play, some forms of escape have the ability to hurt those around you.

The creative team for A Bright New Boise has put together a solid, deeply moving production with just the right amount of polish. Director Davis McCallum has approached the play without any bells and whistles, really giving the story the opportunity to shine and affect. Jason Simms' set feel exactly like what it's supposed to be — a breakroom in anywhere, USA. I don't mean to be giving the actors short shrift here. They all get their characters and don't play them as ignorant or average. Even though the theater season has just started, this show will likely be one of my favorites.

A special mention must also go to this space, The Wild Project, which was recently renovated as a Green theater. That means energy saving light bulbs and toilets, and eco-friendly (and comfortable!) seating.

Bright New Boise
Written by Samuel D Hunter
Directed by Davis McCallum
Cast: John Patrick Doherty, Matt Farabee, Andrew Garman, Sarah Nina Hayon, Danielle Slavick
Sets: Jason Simms
Costumes: Whitney Locher
Original Music: Ryan Rumery
Lighting: Raquel Davis
Video Design: Rocco Disanti
Dramaturgy: John M Baker
Stage Manager: Tara Nachtigall
The Wild Project 195 E. 3rd Street
From 9/8/10; closing 10/2/10
Wednesday through Saturday @ 8pm.
Reviewed by Amanda Cooper based on 9/11/10 performance
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