Boom Town | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Boom Town 

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Boom Town, Pyewacket, at Angel Island. On the surface, the theme of movie actor Jeff Daniels's Boom Town (not to be confused with Steven Dietz's play of the same name) is suburban sprawl: small-town Michigan residents Stuart and Angela Tompkins are falling behind in the payments on their convenience store but propose to improve business by establishing an adjoining mobile-home park--an idea that their banker buddy, Frank Anderson, opposes. But actors turned authors are rarely interested in ideologies, arguments, or even plots, for that matter. So it comes as small surprise that beneath the characters' facades--Stu is bullish, Angie patient, Frank pacific--lie secrets that will explode in violence and betrayal, things actors love to play.

Under the direction of Kenneth Lee (on loan from CollaborAction Theatre Company, as are light designer Jeremy Getz and actors Rob Skrocki and Tom Arvetis) and set off by the hyperrealism of Martin Andrew's set and Benjamin Getting's sound design, the cast attack their roles with relish, savoring every extravagant emotion while never allowing the soapsuds to spill into bathos. Arvetis and Kate Harris are suitably sympathetic, but their performances are eclipsed by Skrocki's as the menacing but ultimately vulnerable Stu. Even as we see his fate approaching--and we see it coming for a while--we hope up to the last minute for some reprieve.

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