boom | Pittsburgh City Paper
Matt Henderson and Lauren Michaels in Off the Wall's boom.

Biology and comedy? It's a natural mix: the study of life, and life as laughs while things go boom -- the title of Peter Sinn Nachtrieb's little (80 minutes, no intermission) gem of a play. Good heavens -- there's actually intelligent dialogue. But don't be frightened. boom also has lots of loud noises and plenty of physical comedy, too, in Off the Wall Productions' superb handling of the area premiere of this 2007 play.

boom is well suited to the company's space and talents. Choosing the right material is half the battle; realizing the potentials, with cast and crew in harmony under the direction of Michael E. Moats, is a joy. Alas, boom is so filled with plot twists and outrageous absurdities, apocalypse to genesis, that it's nigh impossible to discuss the plot, nonsensical though it may be. But be prepared for lots of references to sex: the biological necessity to the evolution of the species, as well as the human recreational and procreational varieties.

The women dominate boom, especially the rubber-jointed Lauren Michaels, alternately collapsing in perfect pratfalls and bullying her wannabe "romantic" interest. That would be the nerdly scientist (is that redundant?), played with a sort of nebbish charm by Matt Henderson. Completing the cast is Rachel Downie as boom's most mysterious character. Over-eager narrator? Frustrated puppetmaster reaching for deification? Downie pulls together quite a range, even if we don't know who or what she is until nearly the end.

Set designer/master carpenter Paul A. Shaw (and unnamed assistants?) succeeds with a complex but tight two-part set. Also kudos to stage manager Debi Meny, fight director Shaun Rolly, costumer Chaleece McCracken, director Moats on light/sound design, and whoever tracked down the props. Oh, and let's not forget the fish.

Though not a laff-a-minute chucklefest, boom is provocative, intellectual without being pedantic, and mainly a lot of fun.


boom continues through March 19. Off the Wall Productions, 147 N. Main St. Washington. 724-873-3576 or