This new (and free) way to enjoy theater begins at the end — of the world. For their debut project with Elements Theatre Collective, artistic directors Emily Jewell and Sara Rademacher chose Peter Sinn Nachtrieb’s apocalyptic comedy boom. Like the Sims, but embellished with more than a few twists and some serious character development, boom employs a fast-paced script that’s pumped full of wit to keep the audience giggling. Along the way, boom demonstrates its self-proclaimed theme — “the resilience of life against all odds” — and extends it to what Rademacher calls “the changing face of theater.”
Through the lens of Barbara (Jewell), an all-knowing, drum-banging, lever-pulling woman in a crisp white and red outfit, we observe the evolving relationship between Jo (Megan Caniglia) and Jules (Casey Caldwell). This quintessentially incompatible duo just happen to be the last two remaining humans on Earth. It seems that Jo, a diehard cynic and journalism student, has entered Jules’s subterranean marine biology lab-turned-home in response to an Internet ad promising “sex to change the course of the world.” When she realizes that Jules meant for his ad to be taken literally, she realizes that she wants nothing to do with the catastrophe-obsessed scientist. But, since the world outside no longer exists, she can’t leave, and suddenly the survival of humanity depends on their procreation.
Perhaps nothing annoys Jo more than Jules’s quirky post-apocalyptic positivity — even though every member of his family has been killed by a series of bizarre calamities. That Jules is gay doesn’t help his case with Jo either. The fact that an apocalypse could neither kill him nor put a damper on his spirits drives Jo to several suicide attempts, each of which ultimately goes awry due to her habit of fainting in the face of danger. Meanwhile, Barbara appears as a sort of God’s apprentice character, interjecting authoritative yet flustered asides, telling thought-provoking tales, and asking questions directly to the audience throughout the evening.
Jewell and Rademacher designed Elements Theatre Collective with their favorite theater outings in mind: Performances are free, performance spaces are creative, and drinks and blankets (the latter for outdoor performances) are provided. Together they pointed to the post-performance crowd at Left Coast, of whom they knew less than half, saying, “Look at them; they’re talking!” This indicated almost as much success as the donations collected that night, which are Elements’ sole source of funding.
The opening weekend of boom took place in the back patio area of Left Coast Books in Old Town Goleta. Sticking with Elements’ mission to bring theater to communities throughout the Santa Barbara area, subsequent performances will take place at the Rook Co-Op Outdoor Space (S.B.; Aug. 28), the Empty Pool (literally; it’s at a private residence in Goleta; Sept. 2-3), Euphoria Hookah Lounge (S.B.; Sept. 4), Alpha Epsilon Phi (Isla Vista; Sept. 9) and the Fishbon Pescadrome (S.B.; Sept. 10-11). Casting for the next Elements play, a thus-far untitled piece by area writer Ivan Wohner, will be this winter. For more information on coming projects, including workshops, visit elementstheatrecollective.com.