The best villains are the ones who think they're heroes.
The Macbeths? Just interested in putting a competent ruler on the throne. Dr. Frankenstein? Wanted to give the gift of eternal life. Darth Vader? Order to the galaxy and a chance to reconnect with his children.
Will, the character at the center of Samuel D. Hunter's A Bright New Boise, doesn't think of himself as a hero, but he certainly believes he's spent a life doing God's work. Instead, the man is a King Midas in reverse, bringing ruin to everyone and everything in this searing production by Loudmouth Collective.
Will works at a Boise Hobby Lobby, where he's arrived to connect with the son he gave up for adoption. He'd dedicated his life to an Evangelical church that collapsed in scandal. The church preached that the End Times were near. Now Will faces a personal apocalypse of his own.
His son, Alex, wants nothing to do with him. But they come to a halting understanding through their pain. For Alex, this includes doubts about faith and his future — not to mention the panic attacks that plague his life.
A Bright New Boise examines a flawed man whose parenthood and friendship (with co-worker Anna) are doomed because he lacks the tools to truly listen and learn from his guilt.
Adam Whisner plays the unintended villain in a challenging, measured, and understated performance. He pushes Will's anxiety into every action, from nervously eating microwave meals while being interrogated about his past to engaging in stop-and-start conversations with his son.
The moody and troubled Alex could easily be overplayed, but Spencer Harrison Levin naturally builds the various tics into his character. Whisner and Levin feel like father and son — in the way they talk, the way they carry their inner turmoil, their small gestures and tilts of the head.
All of this may make A Bright New Boise sound like an exercise as dour as Long Day's Journey into Night, but the company mines plenty of humor — to the point that it can feel like a retail version of The Office instead of a haunting family drama.
The balance of the cast gets their moments — especially Karen Wiese-Thompson, who relishes every moment as the foul-mouthed manager Pauline, whose only goal is to keep the craziness in the break room and not out amid the colorful crafting displays.
IF YOU GO:
A Bright New Boise 8 p.m. Friday-Monday; January 22-25 Open Eye Figure Theatre 506 E. 24th St., Minneapolis $10-$15 For tickets and more information, call 612-643-1231 or visit online.