The relatively new Black Lab Theatre brings us Peter Sinn Nachtrieb's comedy Boom, which is both contemporary and futuristic. The play presents what may be a re-enactment of a historical event: a meteor sweeping toward earth, much like the one that wiped out the dinosaurs.
The setup is that a man and a woman who just met are locked into an underground bomb shelter. No, this is not that situation where they constantly change their minds about whether they'll get it on. Jules, a nerdy marine biologist, is played by Jordan Jaffe with power, warmth and appeal. While Jules is primarily interested in fathering a child to preserve the species, Jo, a fledgling journalist played by Lindsay Ehrhardt with compelling energy and vivid directness, has zero interest in that. They are unaware of Barbara, a white-garbed overseer who controls the events they're enacting. Barbara is portrayed by Celeste Roberts with style and vivacity, adding a layer of complexity without intruding upon the powerful connection between Jaffe and Ehrhardt.
Jaffe is the founder and artistic director of Black Lab Theatre, and he has done well to produce the show in Wildfish Theatre, on Post Oak Boulevard, with good sight lines, comfortable seats and an air of understated elegance. He's done equally well to use Justin Doran as director, for Doran's sure hand permits the rich humor to emerge from the predicament, while suspense keeps us on the edge of our seats for an intermission-less 90 minutes.
The combination of skilled direction, an explosive set that is almost a fourth character, intriguing costumes, imaginative lighting, and actors who have nailed their roles is simply wonderful. Black Lab Theatre has staged a difficult, challenging comedy by a brilliant playwright with something to say, and the result is a theatrical triumph.
Girls Only — the Secret Comedy of Women at Main Street Theater grew out of skits developed by two improv actresses, Barbara Gehring and Linda Klein, which they developed into a comedy that arrives in Houston after long runs in other U.S. cities. The two came up with the idea for the work after finding their high school diaries and reading them to each other. The comedy appeals to nostalgia and aims directly at the heartstrings of women, and does so with engaging charm and warm good humor. Female-only audiences are encouraged by the show's producers, but not because there are secrets to hide — maybe they don't want men to know just how much fun women have by themselves.
Two Houston actresses, Tracy Ahern and Keri Henson, play close friends, at varying ages, and both are excellent. They're gifted comediennes with great timing, expressive faces and a knack for pantomime. As the play progresses, they discuss diaries, valentines, the awkwardness of a sexual-education class, a first crush, the benefits of breast feeding and other topics.
We think marketing to female audiences may be too restrictive, for these performers are babes — good-looking and fit with great, outgoing personalities and a sense of humor. They're good sports, they tell jokes well and they like men. What male wouldn't want to spend 90 minutes in their company?
The set is a lovely, pink teenager's bedroom cluttered with memorabilia, including windows that convert into screens for an occasional video. The comedy is directed by Luanne Nunes de Char — her seventh time directing it — and her experience, talent and professionalism pay off brilliantly as the pace flows seamlessly, carried by the exuberance and unflagging energy of the players. These five remarkable women (authors, actresses and director) have created a world of joy and amusement, and Main Street Theater is to be commended for sharing it with us. — JJT
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