DOOM DOOM DOOM
In the Boom Boom Room is a David Rabe play that did not win a Tony in 1974. In it, Rabe demonstrates no particular affinity yet for female characters, of whom there are many. It is not subtle or quiet, but few Rabe plays are. In angry, long-winded street poetry, inarticulate folk say smart things about the institutionalized degradation of men and women of the working class, about how little girls grow up to marry their fathers, about why not to use family mythologies as a blueprint for living. In a variation on Candide, Chrissy (Kate Bowman) travels her world from white trash upbringing to go-go girl plateau to strip club gutter, sustaining her illusions on a misguided tour of self-improvement while those around her get maimed and broken. The story ultimately provides a mind-fuck gasp of recognition, the whole play a sex-worker origin story hollered by an exotic dancer who sat down at your table to rest her feet. Not fancy, but serviceable, this script.
That is, if it has a director, and if you can hear the dialogue over period pop songs, the rights for which would cost more than the script’s rental fees if anyone bothered to pay them. (No such arrangement for music rights appears in the program.) But this is the sort of bottom-feeder production one can see any night on Santa Monica Boulevard’s infamous Theatre Row, which seems to exist in a world as far from ASCAP as from OSHA. For the benefit of the cast, I hope someone – anyone – shuts down this production before an actor gets hurt worse than Kate Bowman did (not very) when she tripped and fell opening night. Between Tom Buderwitz’s oddly designed, poorly carpentered set (with its awkward distribution of playing levels, gaping seams at the top of stair units, and ominously creaking-and-snapping bedframes) and Kristen Boulé’s panic-attack blocking, this show is a compound fracture waiting to happen. Bowman herself would do well to get in better shape before she takes on a role requiring her to leap, climb, and spaz out for almost three hours (uninspired but at least safe-looking go-go choreography by Alli Miller & Sarah Haworth). Bruises all over the actor’s body testify to her courage, and to the folly of the undertaking.
This production also illustrates what happens when you put a director with no sense of proportion in the same room with a lead actor who really needs to rein it in: a lot of stomping and yelling. Producer/director/sound designer/2Cents Theatre Group Founding President and Artistic Director Kristen Boulé has served the rest of the cast just as poorly, in that their wild variety of skill sets places characters in different plays within each scene. Everyone seems to have received Philadelphia dialect instruction (from Richard Tatum) yet everyone has a different accent. There are one or two good performances here, primarily Theresa Tilly’s; Corby Sullivan has all the makings of a fine performance except knowledge of where to pitch it. I would guess this is because his director misinformed or didn’t tell him. There are ten other actors. Some of them are good actors. You wouldn’t know it under this director. Everybody but Tilly looks lost much of the time.
Boulé’s service to the script may be summed up in a prefix: dis. It is a good idea to learn what functions are served by mode and style before willy-nilly interspersing realism, naturalism, and disinterested theatricality. Otherwise, one might juxtapose a realistic if poorly staged beating (fight choreography by Brad Ashten) with a dreamscape-y topless dance number; one might stage a well-written scene of child-parent confrontation as kitchen-sink drama that jarringly devolves into absurdist fantasy; and one should not. I don’t care what the stage directions say. Neither does a director. But Boulé also thinks it’s okay to leave multiple cigarettes in ashtrays until they burn out, relighting and replacing them over and over, effectively filling this hot, uncomfortable little theater with smoke for the entire running time. This director finds it acceptable to carry two bags of groceries onstage, then for the balance of the play abandon them on a full bar that takes up a fifth of the playing area and is not used once in the whole show. That bar and those paper sacks are among the objects adequately lighted by Jenna Pletcher, even when they are not the focus of action, which is ever.
What else can be said. It is good, I suppose, that someone expends the energy to run a theater company that produces “women playwright Festivals” and keeps the Hudson in rent money. It is not good when that company’s work perpetuates the low standard for which Theatre Row is a fair synonym. It’s hard to know why to support the efforts of an artistic director whose directing credits seem limited to shows she has produced herself. Few artists can grow in a vacuum. So I suggest buying this play and reading it instead of going to see this show; unless you work for the kind of authoritative body that protects the safety of actors or theatergoers (fire marshal? Someone?), or ensures songwriters’ royalties, in which case I hope you buy a ticket today.
photo by Kristen Boulé
In the Boom Boom Room
2Cents Theatre Group
Hudson Backstage in Hollywood
scheduled to end on August 3, 2014
for tickets, call (323) 960-7785 or visit www.2centstheatre.com