Written by David Rabe
Directed by Greg Cicchino
David Rabe writes in an organic, raging style seldom found among today’s playwrights. In the 21st Century’s short attention span, speed-obsessed culture, Rabe and others of his generation can seem a bit trippy and self-indulgent. Yet with the right approach to the material, Rabe’s odd blend of imagistic poetry and naturalistic street-speak can be made to sing. The trick is finding the internal rhythms of the text. In The Chain Theater’s sincere revival of IN THE BOOM BOOM ROOM, director Greg Cicchino, attempts, with mixed results, to get inside Rabe’s musicality.
Thankfully, lead actor Nina Kassa provides the show with a strong emotional core and gives the other actors plenty of emotional energy to feed off of. Kassa stars as Chrissy, a childlike dancer sojourning in Philadelphia while setting her sights on a career in New York. In Philly’s reserved go-go clubs, the dancers remain dressed, but that doesn’t stop the clientele from pressing for a little more action. Unlike some of her colleagues, Chrissy doesn’t hook on the side. She does, however, attract the attention of ex-con Al (Kirk Gostkowski), who follows her home with his sidekick Ralphie (Paul Terkel). With his rough demeanor and racist rhetoric, Al stands out in sharp contrast to Eric (Kyle Kirkpatrick), another suitor, whose strict religious upbringing makes intimacy difficult. Even fellow dancer Susan (Christina Elise Perry) makes a pass at Chrissy. It seems the only person who isn’t sexually interested in her is her gay neighbor Guy (Deven Anderson). Unfortunately, none of them are able to offer Chrissy a healthy relationship. Raised in an atmosphere of secrecy and shame by Harold (Pete Mattaliano) and Helen (Malikha Mallette), Chrissy appears destined to repeat old patterns and make self-destructive choices– one of which will alter the course of her life forever.
When it’s cooking, the production succeeds ringing to life the script’s odd blend of social satire and personal tragedy. The father-daughter scenes, for example, are particularly effective (Mattaliano endows Harold with a salt-of-the-earth charm that makes his incestuous agenda all the more disturbing). Likewise, the 1970’s dance sequences are delivered with energy and precision by choreographer Sharron Lynn and performers Alexandra Tabas, Tina Marie Tanzer, Cori Stolbun and Tyler Reed. Unfortunately, not all of IN THE BOOM BOOM ROOM lands with the same surety. As the show proceeds through its cavalcade of characters, multiple scene changes and myriad entrances and exits, something of the momentum gets lost in all the hurlyburly.
IN THE BOOM BOOM ROOM continues through May 6, 2017 at the American Theatre of Actors, 314 W. 54th St (between 8 and 9 Ave.), New York, NY 10019. Tickets: /web.ovationtix.com/trs/cal/29365