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“It’s the end of the world. Do you have a date?”
The tagline of San Francisco-based playwright Peter Sinn Nachtrieb’s “boom,” about a comet on a collision-course with Earth, reaffirms that Armageddon has become the current zeitgeist, spanning religions and popular culture. From Cormac McCarthy novels (“The Road”) to upcoming John Cusack films (“2012”), doom and gloom has pervaded our conversations. In fact, the notion is so prevalent that it was recently skewered on “Saturday Night Live,” when Tina Fey, as VP candidate Sarah Palin, commented, “This global warming whoseywhatsit … is just a natural part of the end of days.”
Mr. Nachtrieb addresses this dark subject, along with the heavy existential questions that encompass it (“Why am I here?” “Where are we going?”), wisely, making “boom” (mostly) a comedy. He also made a wise decision when he chose the Next Theatre for his Chicago debut.
Next artistic director Jason Southerland makes his local directorial debut with this dark comedy that pits a global catastrophe against a Craig’s-list hookup. Cynical journalism student Jo (a feisty Kelly O’Sullivan) answers an ad for “intensely significant coupling” and winds up in a basement university lab with eternal optimist/marine biologist Jules (John Stokvis), who is less focused on casual sex and more interested in repopulating the earth after the cataclysmic event he believes is coming. Stocked with food, tampons and diapers, Jules seems to have prepared for everything, except for the realization that he might be gay.
“boom” is a funny and contemplative work, well suited here by Ms. O’Sullivan and Mr. Stokvis’ palpable chemistry, Mr. Southerland’s kinetic blocking and an intricate set by Andre LaSalle that feels like a lab within a museum, with nothing left outside.
“boom” runs 80 minutes, with no intermission, at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center,927 Noyes Street
. For tickets, call 847-475-1875 or visit www.nexttheatre.org.