Spotlight: Please Don't Blow Up Mr. Boban

The night I saw this collaboration between Live Action Set and director Jon Ferguson, Noah Bremer (Mr. Boban) and Robert Haarman (in a couple of roles, including a half-mad military captain) moved about the cracked linoleum floor amid the theater-in-the-round setting, psychically disarming the audience by having them sniff herbs, and clowning like demented birds of prey, insisting over and over, "This isn't the show." Which was a sort of knowing half-lie, because while the story of Mr. Ruben Boban hadn't technically started, the players were establishing the surreal sense of intimacy and emotional intensity on which this show's success hinges. Mark Ruark's spare visual design features exposed light bulbs, blasted building materials, and a sense of improvised ruin in its depiction of Boban's war-torn restaurant. What follows is a series of absurdist and dead-serious tangents that take on the effects of war, primarily on civilians, in a wildly expressionistic style that combines dance, comedy skits, electronic music (both jarring and semi-ambient), and more clowning. I've yet to come across a satisfying description of precisely what this show is, or why it works (and it does), I think because of how fleeting and ephemeral many of its segments are. It's hard to say precisely why I was so affected by the psychic mind war toward the end, or what was so funny about the raft of reporters descending on Boban's bombed-out eatery and pledging their opportunistic "support." Bremer, tall and rangy, moves with grace, and his emotional portrayal of the goofy restaurateur helps send things from the merely frenetic to the truly moving. Kari Kelly, as a mother searching for her lost daughter (Megan Odell), provides a note of pathetic tragedy, and Kimberly Richardson's Beatrice has a squeaky-cleanness that somehow underscores the work's dance between beauty and cynicism. Such is the raw originality of the psychic space Boban creates that a look around in the dark revealed tears, wide eyes, and expressions of deep shock at various points. One assumes that this is what the creators were after.