Written by 6:53 am Review, Theater, Uncategorized

A Bright New Boise @ CSUF – Review

Written by Alina Mae Wilson

A Bright New Boise by Samuel D. Hunter and directed by Mark Ramont is currently playing over at Cal State Fullerton. Contrary to what you might think hearing the title, it is NOT a cheery musical about potato farmers (no disappointment here). Taking place almost entirely in the break room of a Hobby Lobby, “A Bright New Boise” is a surprisingly detailed character study featuring five very different individuals. We get to know each person, and by the end of the play, we have a pretty decent understanding of what makes each person tick.

I’m sure most people leaving the theater will spend at least some time discussing the motivations and events we see. The story is rather akin to a large sandwich. Here’s some bread, a depressing character, some jokes, a depressing character, snark, a depressing character, more jokes AND snark, don’t forget the pepper, and another slice of bread. While some parts were worth nibbling, I couldn’t swallow the lot.

Story:

When Will (Ethan Montes) is hired as a staff member at Hobby Lobby, he is quick to introduce himself to the other employees. While it appears he is eager to start “fresh,” Will has a veiled past that makes his assimilation more difficult. As the story continues and Will’s conversations with his coworkers become richer and more in-depth, we gain an understanding of each person’s suffering and perspectives — especially Will’s.

By looking at the character’s attitudes towards religion and each other, the story takes on a philosophical slant. That’s not such a bad thing; there are worse things you could do with your time besides ponder the nature of forgiveness and spirituality, but with so much heartache and so few moments of genuine pleasure or connection between the people onstage, it was kind of hard to FEEL for everyone. I could cognitively understand their plights and where they were coming from, but they spent so much time yelling and snapping at each other that I had a hard time truly caring about them beyond

“I get their point.”

Acting:

The acting was decent. Some of the acting decisions seemed to involve abrupt mood swings without apparent cause. This is an emotionally dense play, and the cast is to be commended for their fervor in attacking the project. Pauline (Savannah Haislip) frequent bellowing could have taken on an incoherent, raucous tone, but instead, it was right in line with the desperate sarcasm and irritation a frazzled manager at her wit’s end would be feeling. Due to the purpose of her obvious outrage in each scene, Haislip is undoubtedly the funniest part of the show.

Set design:

The set was simple yet effective. The whole thing takes place in a break room. Any other scene changes are done by shining a spotlight on the actors and bathing the rest of the stage in darkness. It’s not visually stimulating, but it gets the job done.

Overall:

This was a decent show. I  wish there were more opportunities to see the characters and enjoy them (versus simply feeling, “Wow. These people are angry and depressed.”), but it’s an interesting justification for the tumultuous feelings inside the most stressed among us.

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7.6 Overall
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Story7.5
Acting7.5
Set & Design8
Costumes8
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Above Average! March 23 – 29, 2024.

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