Laugh as Earth Goes Boom

Beck, Schweid Confront Coupling

boom offers more than the crash of a kettle drum to herald the end of the world. For me, at least, it entertained first and saved the thought-provoking part to continue days after the lights went down on the Howard Drew space at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

And it helped me overcome what I’d feared was my immunity from crude obscenities. I was so smitten with director Amy Lane’s brilliant treatment of August: Osage County that I was convinced I couldn’t be offended by ugly language in an artful context.

But playwright Peter Sinn Nachtrieb proved me wrong by putting the four-syllable word (sometimes shortened to “mofo”) in the mouths of a virginal coed and a middle-aged museum attendant. I’m still not sure if it offended me as much as it irritated me for its in-your-face straining for sophomoric shock laughs.

But it wasn’t irritating enough to keep me from enjoying three high-powered performances, again under the direction of Ms. Lane, who looks more and more like a leading contender to keep directing at the Playhouse when its current directors retire.

Ben Beck and Amy Schweid become the oddest of couples after his dorky grad student researcher advertises for someone to engage in “intensely significant coupling.” His goal is to repopulate Earth after a comet destroys all life not sheltered in his scientific lab, and her adventurous journalism student thinks the sexual invite “meant you were good at it.”

It’s never really possible to pull out a line or two to show readers how hilarious their encounters can be, and this one won’t get the job done, but here’s one quirky sample: She opens a lab cabinet and exclaims, “It’s full of Tampons and diapers.” He explains, “Yes, that’s the Tampon and diaper cabinet.”

You have to be there. Judy Radcliff has masterful moments, too, though burdened by the weakest facet of Nachtrieb’s script: the conceit of her observing the main action as a museum exhibit of the ancient cataclysmic event.

The best of it comes from Beck’s comedic talent and Schweid’s physicality, a phenomenon first seen by many of us when she played Tiger Lily in Peter Pan at the Playhouse. Then there’s the thought-provoking hangover when I found myself pondering its glib view that we’re powerless in the face of natural forces so we should take comfort in the idea that life will evolve from the fishes again in 65 million years or so.

Cold Cream looks at theater in the metro area. Email information to coldcream@thereader.com.  

posted at 05:29 pm
on Sunday, October 21st, 2012

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