By Live Action Set
Directed by Jon Ferguson and Noah Bremer
at the Soap Factory
August 5-6 & 10-13, at 8pm each night; also August 13 at 2:30
Art continually pulls away from any prescribed position, escaping from under the thumbs of those who’d like to pin it down; this makes it a terrible vehicle for the flat opinions we generally have about today’s events. The Live Action Set’s very good “Please Don’t Blow Up Mr. Boban,” though, concentrates on the confused people who live in the surreality of the war zone rather than on the commanders, so that the question they’re asking is not “Why are we in Iraq?” but “What’s it like to try to live a normal life in the middle of a war?”
Mr. Boban, played by the extraordinarily tall, extraordinarily likeable Noah Bremer, is an innocent trying to run a restaurant that keeps getting bombed. He has nothing to serve but potatoes, but he won’t leave because, as he puts it, “I live here.”
The other members of the company (all good, but Megan Odell and Galen Treuer, as well as Bremer, deserve special notice) run in and out of the restaurant, acting as scared townspeople, dead townspeople, a refugee who lives in the refrigerator, Boban’s girlfriend, the “dead girl” who is carted around by a lunatic army captain, a grief-stricken mother with photographs of her missing child sewn to her shirt, and so on. Unlike many works in the same genre, this tragicomic talk-movement piece doesn’t mangle words, but shows a concern to get pithy, eerie, funny lines. “Am I the dead girl?” Odell asks Bremer as she figures out her situation.
The episodic structure keeps the show lively and entertaining at first, but later drags “Boban” down as bits repeat and repeat, seemingly without a central narrative line. At forty-five minutes this show would be a knockout; at an hour and a half it gives you time to notice your uncomfortable chair, the heat of the Soap Factory, etc. I vote for cutting Boban’s unconvincing romance and restricting the grieving mother to one appearance: once, she’s moving, but twice, she’s maudlin, and three times, she’s a stereotype, a shallow American imagination of war—just what this show elsewhere works so hard to avoid.