Saturday, April 30, 2011

Review: ‘Lion' reveals emotion at Lakewood Playhouse

Joseph Grant plays King Henry II and Syra Beth Puett is Eleanor the queen in “The Lion in Winter.”

Published in The News Tribune, April 29, 2011

There is much to recommend “The Lion in Winter” at Lakewood Playhouse: a well-crafted script by James Goldman, strong acting by Joseph Grant as Henry II and Syra Beth Puett as Queen Eleanor, good direction by John Munn and a beautiful set by Blake R. York.

On the downside, it is a long play at two and three-quarter hours (including a 15-minute intermission) and it is slow-moving despite high drama and sharp and witty dialogue.

People who remember the 1968 movie with Peter O’Toole or the 2003 film version with Patrick Stewart might expect a magisterial and larger-than-life Henry II. Grant takes a different tack, playing the king as a more life-sized person. We sense a very real and conflicted human underneath his royal pretensions. Although he embodies ruthless power and ambition, we can see that the man inside could have been a scared little boy who just needed to be loved – much like his youngest son, John (Mike McGrath).

Puett lights up the stage as Queen Eleanor. The queen is a very complex character. Conniving and with a heart of steel, she nonetheless can be loving toward her husband and her sons – and even tender with her husband’s mistress, Alais (Kat Christensen), whom she raised as if she were a daughter. It is all a pretense, and the audience is let in on it. This is probably the best performance I’ve seen from Puett – seen most recently in “Ring Around the Moon” and “Mousetrap” at Lakewood Playhouse and “On Golden Pond” at Tacoma Little Theatre. In this performance, she makes the audience almost believe her time and again as she manipulatively pretends to love each of these other characters.

The other outstandingly complicated character is Henry’s son Geoffrey (Alex Smith). He is by far the most insidiously devious among a family of scheming and self-serving people, and Smith plays him with complexity and nuance. There are no big dramatic gestures from Smith’s Geoffrey, but there are many sly and subtle expressions.

The other two sons of Henry II are more one-dimensional. Richard the Lionheart (Bryan K. Bender) is proud and angry, and Bender plays him as full of bluster. With stiff posture and clenched fist, standing much taller than anyone else in the cast, Bender makes Richard almost a parody of the fierce warrior he was known to be. He is an unlikable character, and my reaction to Bender’s performance was conflicted.

Also one-dimensional are the youngest son, John (McGrath) and King Philip of France (Dylan Twiner). McGrath is a student at Stadium High School and a relative newcomer to area stages. He captures John’s youthful neediness believably. Philip’s one overriding character trait is smugness, and Twiner portrays that so well that I, frankly, wanted to wipe that smug smile off his face. There is nothing likeable about either of these characters, which makes it difficult to appreciate the acting; but these actors do a credible job of bringing these unlikable characters to life, which is quite an accomplishment for young and relatively inexperienced actors.

The other young actor in this play, Christensen, has crammed a lot of stage experience into a few years. I first recognized her acting talent a little more than three years ago in “The Sound of Music.” During the past two seasons, she has graduated to grown-up roles and fills them with style and grace. As Alais, she too is disingenuous, but is one of the more sympathetic characters in this play, helpless and at the mercy of two merciless kings – her brother and her lover – not to mention a manipulative queen and three brothers at war with each other for the crown.

“The Lion in Winter” is a complicated period drama that, for all of its complexities, is easy to follow.

Friday, April 29, 2011

"Culture / Subculture"

Two-part art exhibit at The Evergreen State College

The Weekly Volcano, April 28, 2011
Pictured: a still from Karissa Carlson’s "A Vampire Among Us." Photo courtesy The Evergreen State College

There is a very interesting show at the gallery at The Evergreen State College. It's called "Culture / Subculture." The theme is precisely what the title implies - artists' interpretations of the way we are, our many cultures and subcultures as depicted and/or symbolized in photography, prints, drawings and sculpture from some of the better known artists in the Northwest and in the world, including Kiki Smith, Diane Arbus, Salvador Dali, Jay Steensma, Mary Randlett, Judy Dater - and even a bunch of photographs by Andy Warhol of Keith Haring and friends.

That's part one of the exhibit. The works in that part are rarely seen art from the college's permanent collection. Part two features videos by Evergreen students, faculty, staff and alumni.

Overall I was most impressed with the photographs and with a few of the graphic works, particularly Smith's drawings from the book "The Animal is in the World Like Water in Water" illustrating poems by Leslie Scalapino. The drawings on the two-page spread on display are delicate, inventive and beautifully executed. Perhaps the most impressive work of art is an untitled graphite drawing by Steensma picturing men seated at the bar in a diner. The gray tonal modulations and the line work creating a sense of rapid motion within stillness are very nice.

I did not have time to view all of the videos. I watched part of Shaw Osha's "2 People in a Room," which was too slow and cerebral for my taste, and "Manium" by Nik Nerburn, which explores some of the many myths surrounding the black houses of Olympia. It was somewhat fascinating despite being difficult to hear and having shaky images from a hand-held camera. I also watched Corinne Hughes' "Harmonies: A Poetic Orchestration," which uses poetry, music and random letters to create a harmonious whole that was lovely and soothing. I wanted to see Karissa Carlson's "A Vampire Among Us" because I was intrigued with the theatrical still I saw. Maybe I'll get a chance to go back and watch it.

There is a vampirish-horror feel to much of the imagery in this show - most notably in some of the photographs, with pictures of emaciated figures, people with masks and with expressions of horror or hopelessness. The most striking of these may be a quite famous photograph by Arbus called "Boy With Toy Hand Grenade." This skin-and-bones kid holding a hand grenade in each hand has a painfully strained expression on his face. This photo has been reproduced countless times, and I'm sure most visitors to the gallery will recognize it.

There are also two Halloween-like black-and-white photographs by Ralph Eugene Meatyard that are as mesmerizing as Meatyard's name. One of his pictures is of a group of kids with scary masks. The other is of a naked blond toddler standing by a skull. Pure innocence coupled with death.

Perhaps the most fascinating of the photos is "Door Knob" by Ralph Gibson, which pictures a skeletal black hand reaching through an open door into an open hallway. Shadows and bands of light, including a ghostlike mirror image of the hand, are cast onto the wall of the hallway. This haunting image is like the moment leading up to something frightening in a horror film.

There is also a very nice lithograph by Jacob Lawrence and a lithograph by Salvador Dali called "Lincoln in Dalivision" that is interesting primarily because it employs a blocky pixilated portrait of Abraham Lincoln done before such images were common. I didn't like the look of this print because it was too contrived. But I liked the combination of unrelated images including a cross, a nude and a takeoff on a Picasso drawing - just Dali showing off as usual.

Through May 17, Monday, Tuesday and Thursday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Evergreen State College
2700 Evergreen Parkway NW, Library 1st floor

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Mother Earth

Olympia’s spring Arts Walk celebrates Earth Day

The Weekly Volcano, April 21, 2011

“Oily Oly ¡Ole!” photo by Kathy Gore Fuss, Photoshopped by John Carlton

globe by Kathy Gore Fuss

Regular readers of this column know I do my best to avoid Arts Walk. I can't stand the crowds, and you're subjected to a dozen bad works of art for every good work of art. Still, for those who are willing to put up with that, there is some great art to see.

From the hundreds of Arts Walk shows to choose from, I decided to write about just one. It sounds fascinating and appropriate to Earth Day, which coincides with the opening day of Arts Walk. It's the globes project at Tom Anderson's studio at 117 Washington St. NE. Anderson has invited artists to make statements using recycled globes.

"There has been a recurring theme over the last few years of taking a common denominator like the cows in Austin, the salmon in Olympia, etcetera, and seeing the variety of artists' interpretations," Anderson says.

Kathy Gore Fuss is doing a piece called "On and Off Shore Drilling." She's been drilling for oil. As of this writing she's still drilling, and hasn't struck oil yet, but she's put a lot of holes in Mother Earth. Behind her globe float several photos of gigantic oil rigs placed seamlessly in the greater downtown Olympia area, photos manipulated by John Carlton. I saw a photo of her globe in process, and it looks like there's not much solid earth left.

"Currently my work tests the integrity of a material, often to the point of collapse or disintegration," Gore Fuss says. "So far, the globe is still holding up as I drill my way around the world. What better way to remind ourselves of, dare I say, our overly consumptive relationship with Mother Earth?"

Suzie Cowan has covered a globe with song titles that relate to the Earth Day theme. Among those imprinted on her globe are "Whose Garden is This" by Tom Paxton, "Save the Country" by Laura Nyro and "Before the Deluge" by Jackson Browne.

Cassie Welliver is doing a piece titled "Tangled World" with papier-mâché, painting and drawing. "It re-imagines the globe in a more colorful, natural, happy and integrated way using symbols and patterns to indicate continents and items you would find on a child's globe. It also uses a drawing technique called Zentangle that is an increasingly popular meditative pattern/mandala doodling activity," Welliver says.

Also in the show will be Anderson, Ross Matteson, Sally Penley, Suzie Engelstad, Jimmy Ulvenes and others to be announced.

Maps to all venues with lists of participating artists can be picked up at the Olympia Center on Columbia Street and at most downtown Olympia stores, or can be found online at
Tom Anderson's studio

Friday, April 22 5-10 p.m.
Saturday, April 23, noon to 8 p.m.
117 Washington St. NE, Olympia
Maps to all venues with lists of participating artists can be picked up at the Olympia Center on Columbia Street and at most downtown Olympia stores, or can be found online at

Sunday, April 17, 2011


At least one of my favorite actors and a few I don't know will be in Bruce B. Post's "Sloth," a Gold for Straw production at Tacoma's Theatre on the Square.

I don't get to review this show. Due to the way our "beats" are determined by the editorial staff at The News Tribune, other staff writers cover shows at the Broadway Center. I haven't seen this show, but from what I've read and heard it should be a show I could highly recommend. It's a comedy directed by Aaron J. Schmookler and starring Annie Katica Green, Rachel Permann, Dennis Rolly, Adam Utley and Jordan Williams.

The Gold for Straw website describes it this way:

"In this brilliant and funny redemption play, Harve, a widower and retired firefighter is left alone as the caretaker of the estate his granddaughter inherited when his daughter died. There's a firebug in the neighborhood burning houses down. The stable-boy caring for Harve's horses is getting restless. Will the house have to burn down around him to get Harve out of his rocking chair? Who is left for Harve to care about? And what will it take to make him care again?"

The director had this to say:

"It’s a rare thing to find a play script that is a page-turner. Scripts are notoriously difficult to read, laborious even – the great ones included. Novels walk the reader through all the details, action, setting, characters’ thoughts, and dialogue included. Scripts by contrast are almost entirely dialogue, and therefore a lot of work for the reader. Sloth was a page-turner on the first read.

"The dialogue is snappy, funny and compelling. The action is remarkable, despite the fact that Harve spends almost the entire play in his chair. And the play is heartbreaking. With loved ones passing one after another, how is one to cope with the grief and find the strength and desire to continue? What gives life meaning, and where can we find the spark when it’s been extinguished?

"Redemption comes often in small and unexpected packages. Sometimes the key to happiness is recognizing the opportunity for redemption when it reveals itself - and before it disappears forever.

"It’s a privilege to bring this World Premiere to Tacoma. It was written more than 25 years ago, and overlooked for production, we assume, because of the myriad technical challenges it presents. While those challenges are things we’ve certainly wrestled with, we believe the story is too good not to tell. And we trust the story to carry even where our technical solutions only hint at the story’s events. In fact, we see the audience’s complicity in filling in the blanks as an important strength of theater, and part of what separates this live format from film.

"We’ve had a blast working on this production to get it ready to show you.  We’re confident you’ll have a blast watching it."

Doesn't that make you want to go see "Sloth"?

The show opens April 22 and runs through May 14. For more information go to

Friday, April 15, 2011

First Americans

Native American art show at SPSCC

“Cedar Cape” by Patti Puhn

The Weekly Volcano, April 14, 2011
I hate it when people say "I don't know much about art, but I know what I like." Invariably that statement is followed by some really stupid put-down of art the speaker hasn't even attempted to understand.

But when trying to evaluate Native American art, I find myself at least tempted to fall back on that tired old excuse. They taught us absolutely nothing about Native art in my six years of college and graduate art studies, and I don't think aesthetics as we understand it even applies.

The Native American Heritage Art Exhibit opened this week at the Kenneth J. Minnaert Center for the Arts Gallery at South Puget Sound Community College. I enjoyed visiting the show. Some of the works are very attractive, and I appreciate the craftsmanship involved. I especially liked some of the woven clothing by Patti Puhn, a member of the Squaxin Island Tribe. I also liked some of the jewelry, baskets and wood carvings. Not so much the paintings, however. I can suspend my Eurocentric art bias when looking at crafts items, but not when looking at paintings. It's too deeply ingrained. The paintings in this exhibition are not particularly stunning, original or well executed. Everything else was pretty solid.

My only other complaint is the show was too sparse. Just not enough stuff. Usually I'd rather an art exhibit be too sparse than overcrowded, but this show cries out for more material.

Now for the good stuff. Puhn's woven clothing is attractive and well crafted. Her "Cedar Cape" has a rose petal clasp at the collar and long hanging strips of cedar bark that cover the chest area and hang down like fringe. Her "Cedar Vest" is like a short dress or a woman's blouse with an intricate pattern of woven cedar strips. I can't imagine wearing either of these, but they're really nice to look at. I especially like the subtly intricate and repetitive patterns in the vest.

There is a "Bear Feast Bowl" and an "Otter Feast Bowl" by Mike Krise, also from the Squaxin Island Tribe. The bear is made from a carved and hollowed-out section of a tree trunk. He lies on his back, and the bowl part is his belly. It's roughly carved and painted with red and black on the face and claws with a green band around his eyes. He's a mean looking bear. The otter is very similar, but larger and more elaborately decorated. And like the bear, he looks fierce.

Speaking of fierce looking, Lee Sterry's "Dakatoh War Club" is a scary weapon with a long handle wrapped with leather strips and a striking head that looks like the jawbone of a canine with teeth, beads and feathers.

Another nice looking piece is Matt Bell's "Paddle Leadership," a carved and painted paddle with stylized paintings of snakes: a large snake on the blade and a smaller one chasing him from the narrow handle area.

The exhibit returns as part of the third annual Native American Heritage Celebration at South Puget Sound, which was held in the fall this year. The exhibit features paintings, prints, jewelry, basketry, carvings and other media from local and regional Native American artists.
The Native American Heritage Art Exhibit

Through April 28, Tuesday–Thursday, noon to 5 p.m., and by appointment
South Puget Sound Community College
Kenneth J. Minnaert Center for the Arts Gallery
2011 Mottman Road SW., Olympia

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A tasteless treat

“Cannibal! The Musical” at the Eagle’s Lodge
Pictured: Polly and Alferd, photo by Michael Christopher.

Those insane folks at Theater Artists Olympia are at it again. They’re bringing back “Cannibal! The Musical,” the recent cult classic by Trey Parker, creator of "South Park" and the new Broadway musical “The Book of Mormon.”

It’s a wonderfully campy and hilarious play, but there were some glaring problems the night I saw it.

Problem number one: critics were invited to review a dress rehearsal a week before opening night when they were already several days behind due to technical problems beyond their control. Hardly anybody was ready — although Christian Doyle as the infamous cannibal Alferd Packer was either on top of his role or covered up awfully well. From his seriously nuanced in tender scenes with Silva Goetz as the reporter Polly Pry to over-the-top slapstick bits, Doyle was a joy to watch. Some of the other actors made major blunders; and the sets, lighting and promised special effects were not yet ready for prime time — all attributable to inviting the critics in too soon.

Problem number two was the irritating set pieces being dragged noisily across the rough concrete floor. It would have been better if they’d let us imagine most of the settings except for the portable jail cell. To be perfectly clear, I’m talking about set pieces, which were unfinished and beyond cheesy, not the props, some of which are absolutely necessary — such as the various body parts in this bloody, bloody romp.

I’ve never seen the script, which doesn’t actually exist. I’ve been told that in lieu of a script there are a few songs and an official adapter’s guide. Theater companies are free to do whatever they want with these. What this crew does with them is wonderfully campy and outrageous.

This true and tragic story of the real life Alferd Packer who led a crew of miners across the Rockies, was the only survivor of their arduous trip, and was tried and convicted for cannibalism, is turned into comical mayhem set to music with silly songs and costumes in the vein of Monty Python or “Saturday Night Live.”

Tim Goebel is entertaining as the narrator, who manages to convey some really absurd lines with great subtlety and mock seriousness. Goetz as Polly Pry and Tom Sanders as Miller the butcher both play their parts almost as if it were a serious play. Almost. Christine Goode fills the enviable role of LiAnne the horse. She prances and flirts like Mae West. Watching her is a joy. Dave Beacham as the unlucky but happy-go-lucky Swan is the most likeable character in the play, and Ryan Holmberg is outrageous as the preacher Bell, who literally beats people over the head with the Book of Mormon.

It’s a fine ensemble performance carried by Doyle and Holmberg. In previous performances this past year — most notably in “Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead” and “The Fifteen Minute Hamlet” — Doyle has proven himself to the a master of physical comedy, and he does it again in this play, most enjoyably in the never-ending fight scene with Holmberg.

Despite the title, this is not a true musical. It’s a comic play with a few songs thrown in. But what great songs they are, with hummable tunes like “Shpadoinkle Day and “Hang the Bastard.”

I do not envy Pug Bujeaud for having to shape up this huge cast and crew. When I saw it she still had some work to do, but based on previous directing jobs I’ve witnessed from her, I have no doubt the kinks (but not the kinkiness) shall have been worked out come opening night.

WHERE: The Eagle’s Lodge Underground, 805 4th Ave. E., Olympia
WHEN: 8p.m., April 14, 15, 16, 17, 21, 22, 23, 28, 29, 30; midnight showing April 23, 2:30 p.m. May 1
TICKETS: $15.00 at the door or at

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Review: Right ingredients don't gel in TMP play 'Nine'

The News Tribune, April 8, 2011

The musical “Nine,” based on Fellini’s classic film “81/2,” is playing at Tacoma Musical Playhouse. It has everything going for it one could reasonably expect of a modern musical – yet it is oddly less than engaging.

Wonderful songs by Maury Yeston blend operatic and musical theater traditions. The stage is filled with beautiful women who musically tell the tale of a famous movie producer and his many paramours. There is humor, tragedy and spectacle, but it all left me strangely unaffected. Frankly, I found myself simply not caring about Guido Contini and his women.

The original Broadway production starring Raul Julia won five Tony Awards, including best musical. The 2003 revival with Antonio Banderas as Guido captured the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical. Then there was the movie version in 2009 with Daniel Day Lewis, Penelope Cruz and even the great Sophia Loren – and promotions that played heavily on the film’s sex appeal.

Yet with all of that, it falls flat.

The story is revealed through Guido’s reminiscence and hallucination. He is approaching midlife and about to lose his wife and his creativity as he tries desperately to come up with an idea for another film.

Rafe Wadleigh is a fine actor, but in the Sunday matinee I attended, he walked through the role of Guido without putting his heart into it. Even in the pseudo sex scenes, he lacked fire. I’ve admired his previous performances in “South Pacific” and “Guys and Dolls,” and he has a strong voice that carries nicely, but he did strain on a few notes throughout this show.

With one leading man and 20 women on stage, none of the women have very large roles, but Maria Valenzuela as Guido’s wife, Luisa, carried much of the show on her shoulders. Even just standing by while others took the spotlight, she was a strong presence. As a concert soloist who has performed with the Tacoma Symphony Orchestra, Valenzuela is an outstanding singer. She has a full, clear voice. Unlike so many singers these days, she enunciates beautifully.

Iris Elton is a sultry Carla (Guido’s current mistress) with a throaty voice.

Lisa Wright Thiroux is precious as the bawdy prostitute Sarraghina, and the complicated tambourine sequence she teaches adult Guido and young Guido (Curtis Ganung) is joyful.

Kat Dollarhide plays Guido’s mother with poise and dignity.

Alison Monda’s considerable talents are wasted in the small role of the screenwriter Stephanie Necrophorus.

Kudos as usual to John Chenault for his lighting and to Jeff Stvrtecky for musical direction.

This play is advertised as not suitable for children younger than 13 because of language and sexual situations, both of which are mild.

When: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through April 17. No performance April 15.
Where: Tacoma Musical Playhouse at The Narrows Theatre, 7116 Sixth Ave., Tacoma
Tickets: $20-$27
Information: 253-565-6867,

Friday, April 8, 2011

Photographic transformation

Images on the theme of change at Fulcrum

The Weekly Volcano, April 7, 2011
"A Transformational Moment: Tragedy", Ink jet photo print by Jason Ganwich Photo courtesy Fulcrum Gallery

Transitions in life and in art can be momentous. A historic building comes tumbling down and precious memories fall along with the rubble, yet in its place something grander may arise. There's an accident. Perhaps someone is disfigured, and his life is changed forever. For better or for worse? In the show Progression: Photographic Images on the theme of Transformation at Fulcrum Gallery, five photographers interpret the theme of transformation narratively and metaphorically. Their various interpretations of the theme are each unique.

Kristin Giordano spent years living in Qatar where she became fascinated with the Djinn, a demon or evil being in Arabic mythology. She went out into arid desert regions on the outskirts of a city where Djinns are said to live to take photographs with a panoramic pinhole camera. Her images of a crumbling stone gate, a pile of rocks, the backside of a large billboard and others are eerie and ghostly. You can almost taste the dirt and the wind. There are even extremely subtle streaks of light - a natural result of the photographic process and the light conditions, not a manipulation of the images - that look like ghostly apparitions. Everything in her images is a dull brown or sepia color that makes it seem like the whole world is covered in desert dirt. One in particular is so light as to look like it is about to vanish.

Jason Ganwich has created a single, large photographic image of a bicycle accident. It is a powerful narrative image of a moment of transition frozen in time. It is a staged and posed photo involving actors playing various parts in the story and the skillful combination of many parts into a powerful whole. The car, the driver and passengers, bystanders, buildings and the bicyclist have all been pieced together by Ganwich from separate photographs. As an added treat, Ganwich has included smaller images of each individual photo as a tableau of the work in progress.

Jessica Uhler's take on transition is rust and decay in close-up images of sections of walls from an old military battery at Ft. Worden in Port Townsend. These are abstract images of color and texture.

Morgain Bailey is showing three diptychs of iconic downtown Tacoma buildings in transformation. These images of demolition and construction are taken from odd angles and can be seen as documentation and as exercises in structure and light.

Finally, there are three photographs from John Fisher in which filaments of light transform architectural structures into phantasmagorical images in brilliant tones of blue and green. These are a few of the same images I reviewed four months ago at Mineral. At that time I described them this way: "...the streaks of light in Fisher's photos explode and crackle into amazing strands and bursts like electricity in a mad scientist's lab."

This show is small and modest, but excellent.
Progression: Photographic Images on the theme of Transformation

Through May 14, noon to 6 p.m. Thursday–Saturday and by appointment
Fulcrum Gallery, 1308 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Tacoma

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Harlequin Productions 'Boom': End of the world played for laughs

Casi Wilkerson as Barbara in the control booth manipulates Jo (Melanie Moser) and Jules (Trick Danneker) in Harlequin Productions' "Boom." 

The News Tribune, April 1, 2011

Once again, Harlequin Productions brings to the stage an astounding play impeccably produced. “Boom” by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb is a sci-fi comedy that almost defies description. It’s weirdly funny and nihilistic, but ultimately hopeful in a strange way. It takes place in a subterranean university lab that also serves as the makeshift home for a young researcher, Jules. It also is a museum dedicated to the study of extinct fish.

Jules places an ad online for “sex to change the course of the world.” A journalism major named Jo answers the ad because she is seeking “random sex as the last glimmer of hope in a decaying society.” It turns out Jules is gay and doesn’t really want to have sex with a woman, but he believes he has to save the world. He was being literal in his ad, but Jo thought “sex to change the course of the world” meant he was “that good.”

According to Jules’ calculations, a giant comet is going to crash into Earth in seven minutes. His home/lab is a safe underground survival bunker. They might be the last surviving humans and have a duty to repopulate the world. There are big problems with that in addition to Jules being gay. Jo hates children. To compound that, when they kiss, it is the worst kiss in the world. Now she doesn’t want him to touch her.

Another twist we soon discover is that the comet already hit the Earth thousands of years ago. Jules and Jo – along with the fish in his fish tank – are animatronic specimens in a museum exhibit about the only survivors. An officious museum guide named Barbara stands above them in a kind of electronic control booth that somewhat controls their actions and narrates the story while playing electronic drums.

The three-person cast is outstanding. Trick Danneker plays Jules, Melanie Moser is Jo and Casi Wilkerson is the very bizarre Barbara. Jules is a shy and bumbling geek who says the most outlandish things in the most matter-of-fact way. He then gets highly emotional and flails about like a sock monkey in the hands of an angry child when Jo says or does things that upset him. Almost everything she says or does upsets him.

Jo is an aggressive, no-nonsense young woman who dresses casually and punctuates every sentence with words that can’t be repeated in print. Moser plays her as an angry and crude young woman.

Barbara starts out as a stiff, formal and intimidating presence but gradually loosens up and becomes much more humane and down-to-earth (not down to any Earth we know).

The script presents an almost believable situation with inspired comedic dialogue. The acting by Danneker, Moser and Wilkerson under the direction of Linda Whitney is highly stylized. The elaborate set by Jill Carter and acting style bring to mind Mel Brooks’ “Young Frankenstein.”

Carter’s set is the best I’ve seen on any stage this year. The steel gray cabinets and other furnishings give the lab a futuristic, industrial look. There are giant video installations that dominate the back wall, and the balcony laboratory is crammed with an array of lights and switches– and there are special effects that should not be divulged. The set almost becomes as much a living presence as the actors.

“Boom” is a short play at 90 minutes with no intermission. It moves quickly and demands close attention because some of the jokes fly by before you have a chance to assimilate them. I’d like to see it again to catch some of the zingers that were drowned out by audience laughter.

This is a comedy for mature and intelligent audiences. As warned in the program, “This play contains adult situations and strong language … and (as far as we know) the world will not actually end.”

When: 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays through April 16, with a pay-what-you-can performance at 3 p.m. this Saturday
Where: State Theater, 202 E. Fourth Ave., Olympia
Tickets: Prices vary, call or go to website for details. Rush tickets available a half hour before shows.
Information: 360-786-0151, www.harlequin