Yesterday evening at 7:30, I had the pleasure of attending the Lehigh University Department of Theatre’s production of “Boom,” a play by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb. Written in 2008, this play revolved around marine biologist graduate student Jules (Played by Ryan Herbert, LU ’16), his rather spiteful new “friend” Jo (Paige Hapeman, LU ’19), and a strangely-dressed but knowledgeable woman Barbara (Simona Galant, LU ’18), who narrates the time that Jules and Jo spend together from afar. Through a series of events, Jules and Jo become trapped underground together, which begins the good, bad, and ugly events of their oil-and-water relationship. Full of marine biology, sexual innuendo, and a mysterious undertone of impending doom, this play showed how two characters, one strange theory, and a gloomy situation could turn even the darkest of times into one that bloomed with new life.
I attended this play for several reasons. It had been quite some time since I had attended any performances in Zoellner Arts Center, and even longer since I had seen any performances within the Diamond Theater. I have always admired the talent that my fellow students display under the direction of the Lehigh Department of Theatre, and production after production, they never seem to disappoint. Additionally, I attended this performance with my fraternity brother Alex Huynh, who was very proud of the fact that he had helped rig the lights for the show and was eager for an opportunity to show any of his fraternity brothers what he had contributed to the production.
We attended on a Saturday night night, and early enough so that we could grab ourselves a bite to eat beforehand. We made our way several blocks down from Zoellner to a place called Jenny’s Kuali, which is a great-tasting locally-owned Malaysian restaurant located on the corner of Adams and 4th streets. After ordering some pork wonton soup and individual dishes of Pepper Steak and Curry Mee Soup, we made conversation with the owner, Jenny, who was very happy to hear that neither of us had eaten there before. She let us know that she frequently gets customers in the door due to Zoellner being so close to her restaurant. Jenny also made it a point to tell us that a lot of the local business owners on the South Side have been very happy with the business that local venues such as Godfrey Daniels (also on 4th) and Zoellner Arts Center have provided over the years, and hopes that more curious arts enthusiasts make their way through her door in the future.
After enjoying our meal, we made our way up Zoellner, where we parked my sedan and headed into the show. Though I’m not handicapped, one thing that I noted about the venue was the extreme ease that a handicapped person would have with attending within it. There are plenty of places for a wheelchair to fit within the theater, and there are elevators all over the building and within the parking garage. This was very non-Lehigh-esque, but impressed me nonetheless of Zoellner’s ability to attract a wide variety of audiences.
The show itself was both fascinating and thought-provoking, all at the same time. The artistic component was one of the most bizarre that I’d ever seen – one set stage, minimal props, only 1 (relatively minor) costume change, and an extreme lack of distractions from the story taking place right before the audience’s eyes. I believe that this was all a part of the nature of “simplicity” and “rebirth” that the show so well portrayed, but never stated. When the mysterious woman Barbara made herself known more and more after the first “act,” the audience could tell that she was not a mere prop, perched aloft above the main stage, but an intricate part of what was (as we’d come to realize) an exhibit for which she moderated, many years in the future.
A main, recurring theme within this show was definitely one of time. The show made it distinctly known that time had passed since the days of the actual audience members, but the audience was constantly left “in the dark” regarding how much had actually changed within all of this time. The audience didn’t know until the very end whether or not Barbara was a mind reader, a puppeteer, or a futuristic person, and this is what made a vast majority of the show fascinating.
One major aspect of the show that cannot be overlooked was the aspect of sex and rebirth. The amount of swearing within the production was unnatural for a show of this nature, but all of the swear words that were used within it were ones that pertained to sexuality. The audience knew of the importance of sex within the show’s premise within the first five minutes, when it becomes known that the only reason why Jo was actually in Jules’ lab was due to a personal ad that she had responded to on Craigslist for a brief article for a class. From the time when Barbara cut away from the show’s happenings to explain her conception, to the resolution at the end of the performance which revolved around individual “sexual contempt,” the importance of sex within this performance was held steadfast within the performance’s storyline.
One thing that I wanted to note, and credit my friend Alex for, was the sheer importance of the cinematic effects that came with this simple set. With sound effects held at a minimum, the changes in lighting were really what kept the audience on their toes as they watched the performance. From the reds during times of distress, to the dim-ness during times of contemplation and anger, the lighting had a huge impact on audience-show interaction.
All in all, this performance of “Boom” was a great success for the theater department. I had a wonderful time experiencing this amazing show, and recommend it to anyone wanting to see a very open-minded and well-done performance.
-Brent Lorraine, Electrical Engineer, LU ’16