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Aurora Theatre opens new play series with a boom

A Craigslist ad for a no-strings hookup leads to an apocalyptic dilemma

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Aurora Theatre’s comedy boom gives new meaning to the expression “I wouldn’t go out with you if you were the last person Earth.” Directed by Joe Gfaller, boom begins with an unimaginably lousy date that somehow manages only to get worse.

Jo (Eve Krueger), a young journalism student, responds to a Craigslist ad promising a no-strings-attached hookup. Meek marine biologist Jules (Topher Payne), who placed the ad, shies away from Jo’s sexual aggressiveness, and eventually reveals that he’s both gay and a virgin. When Jo asks how he knows he’s gay if he’s never been with anyone, Jules replies, “The non-randomness of the erections.”

Nodding to the aquarium in his underground lab, Jules explains that his examination of fish behavior patterns has convinced him that a cataclysmic event is nigh. He and Jo could end up as the last two people on Earth, although Jo accuses him of engineering a “Cormac McCarthy meets Road Warrior meets 'Survivor'” fantasy. Krueger and Payne prove well-cast as the mismatched couple, but the comedic action doesn’t quite crackle in the play’s initial section, which unfolds like a “Kids in the Hall” sketch.

Meanwhile, in a corner of the performance space, a woman with the name tag “Barbara” (Shelly McCook) plays a massive drum and operates peculiar controls during key moments. A cheerful tour-guide type, Barbara addresses the audience with increasing frequency, until her personal subplot rivals Jo and Jules' relationship. McCook may have been born to play quirky, chipper roles that call for physical humor, and she winningly captures Barbara’s habit of miming words that she can’t speak aloud.

I won’t spoil whether Barbara is really “there” or not, but as her minidrama interweaves with Jo and Jules’ increasingly outlandish predicament, boom touches on much deeper emotions than you’d expect from the play's beginning. Peter Sinn Nachtrieb’s play inaugurates both Aurora’s smaller performing space and Georgia Gwinnett College Lab Series and promises to bring intriguing, adventurous new plays to Lawrenceville. By the end, boom approaches the good-natured satire of the late, beloved Douglas Adams, and offers a new spin on Adams’ catchphrase, “So long, and thanks for all the fish.”

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