“boom”: An End or A Beginning?

Nicholas Yenson* & Chloe Nosan as “Jules” and “Jo.”
Photo by Maggie Hall

Presented by Wellesley Repertory Theatre
By Peter Sinn Nachtrieb
Directed by Marta Rainer
With Nicholas Yenson, Chloe Nosan, Stephanie Clayman

January 16 – February 9, 2020
Ruth Nagel Jones Theatre
Wellesley College
Wellesley , MA 02481
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Review by Shiyanbade Animashaun

Wellesley, MA — The set for boom is a tank reminiscent of a gallery or museum exhibit, with assorted instruments set to the left. As it starts, Stephanie Clayman’s  (“Barbara”) crosses the stage in a jumpsuit and overcoat. Shortly thereafter,  Nicholas Yenson ( “Jules”) and Chloe Nosan (“Jo”) robotically take to the stage, arranged as an underground bunker.

The action starts with a Barbara striking the Timpani and an enthusiastic Jo ready to start her one night stand with a nervous Jules. After trepidation from Jules, he clarifies the true nature of the arrangement, to Jo’s chagrin. Thereafter, both characters deal with their role in the fate of humanity in opposing ways. The rest of the play is a balancing act between Jo and Jules’s opposing wants, internal reservations, and the entertaining monologues by Barabra, that range from optimistic, to saddened,  to angry.

boom features colorful language. There is frequent cursing and use of the f-word that the targeted character says is “not due to homophobia.” It was jarring to me each time. Perhaps a commentary to our tendency to do or say in anger what might most hurt others. It felt unnecessary. The theme of acting on ones’ responsibility, no matter the cost was prevalent. Though painted as humorous, it was still problematic.

After the initial female-pressures-male introduction, we find that Jules believes the world is ending. He expects to stay with his date for the 2 – 4 years that his calculations predict it will take for the Earth to be inhabitable again. We see evidence of his Nutty Professor qualities as he calculates Earths’ demise up to the minute, but expects a comet strike would “clear up” in under a decade. He also stores food in a central location, and expects to restart humanity with a Craigslist post requesting and “intense coupling.” There are moments of his doggedness, and obtuseness as he, a gay man, considers sexual reproduction against his desires, and later artificial insemination against Jo’s will.

We see the passage of time with an erected barrier to separate the two bunker-mates, and a wounded Jules. An exhausted Jo then mentions her escape attempts, retaliations, and gives a recounting of Jules’s 19 coercion attempts. Though met with laughter by the audience, how much of it was the horrifying sort that the idea of nonconsensual artificial insemination would provoke? Especially via the means of basters, syringes, alcohol and fingers and tampons.

Throughout, Barbara is a faithful Timpani player and switch flicker. Partway through the play she takes center stage to break the fourth wall and converse with the audience, visitors to the exhibit. Over time her optimism and joy about the presentation she is running give way to personal thoughts about her managers, her role, and her future. There are moments in the second half of the play where her lines echo those of Jo and Jules, blurring the lines between the events we are being shown, and Barbara’s part in them.

By the end, the full truth of the museum exhibit is hilariously revealed, and I will not spoil that here. I will say that the actors leaned well into their roles, with Clayman’s tour de force Barbara leading the charge. boom’s rockier moments are clarified to various levels of satisfaction, and Jo and Jules get past their differences, through discussion, without either apologizing. The audience was appreciative of boom’s last reveal and it shed light on one’s tendency to center themselves in the narratives they observe.

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