While playwright Peter Sinn Nachtrieb's boom is slyly hilarious, and the QC Theatre Workshop's production of it laudable for so many reasons, there is one aspect of the performance that stands out in particular: Angela Elliott's laugh.
As Barbara, a godlike person who yanks pulleys, throws large switches, and plays the timpani and gong at set designer Kenn Brinson's Oz-esque control panel, Elliott manages to lend variety to her every chuckle. Barbara giggles in genuine amusement, or in increasing states of nervousness, or just to fill the time between sentences, and her most amusing laugh during Thursday's performance was a loud chortle that clearly depicted her character's arrival at the end of a descent into lunacy. This cackle and Elliot's other snickers, titters, and cachinnations were infectiously delivered, and elicited the heartiest laughs I've released at a theatrical production in quite some time.
Nachtrieb's script is worth plenty of guffaws, too. Rife with wit and sharp humor, boom's story concerns the end of the world by way of a comet striking Earth, one that leaves Thomas Alan Taylor's awkward marine biologist Jules and Jessica Denney's acerbic journalism student Jo in an enshrouded, concrete basement lab/apartment accompanied only by Jules' four fish. Jules has lured Jo into his lab with the promise of sex, but really plans to trap her there so they can repopulate the world after the comet hits. Jules, however, is gay, which Jo has trouble believing at first because he doesn't have "gay eyes." (As Jules explains, he's wearing contacts.) Nachtrieb's writing, themes, and punchlines are delightfully reminiscent of author Douglas Adams' style in his Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. And director Tyson Danner accentuates Nachtrieb's humor with the employment of a quick, almost unforgiving pace that places most jokes on the verge of missable - which, in turn, makes them funnier whenever you catch sly quips just before they pass, and want to nudge your neighbor and excitedly whisper, "Did you catch that?" (This also makes boom worth repeat viewings, so you can pick up on moments of hilarity you may have previously missed.)
In his role as the nerdy Jules, an obsessive who's a little too obsessed with spanakopita, Taylor adds another character to his arsenal of wholly different, equally interesting personalities that he has presented on the Workshop stage. Speaking with a voice that sounds as though it's coming from somewhere between the roof of his mouth and his nasal passages, and keeping his arms fairly close to his sides, Taylor's Jules is nothing like his confident, independent Ken from last year's Red, or his spastic, self-important Matthew from this year's Private Eyes.
Denney, meanwhile, is noteworthy for Jo's increasing craziness as a result of being pent up in a concrete bunker with someone she doesn't trust - mostly out of fear that, for the umpteenth time, he'll try to sneakily impregnate her. What starts as an aloof, somewhat condescending nature descends into a crazed, almost maniacal one that matches Jo's blurred mascara and eyeliner, and Denney is at her most amusing when fending off Jules' potential advances, threatening him with bodily harm in a tone that's comically demented.
Still, it's Elliott's laughter that keeps ringing in my ears, and brings a smile to my face, as I recount how much fun I had at the QC Theatre Workshop's boom. Her yucks and sniggers - to say nothing of Nachtrieb's smart humor and a production that matches his wittiness - are not to be missed.
(Editor's note: boom is assistant-directed and stage-managed by River Cities' Reader employee Mike Schulz.)
boom runs at the QC Theatre Workshop (1730 Wilkes Avenue, Davenport) through May 18, and more information is available by visiting QCTheatreWorkshop.org.