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West Side Show Room's 'Boom' both fun and thought-provoking

West Side Show Room's 2014 production of 'Boom'

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Not so long ago, West Side Show Room was a newcomer to the Rockford theatre scene. A handful of productions later, they are now more established and currently presenting the show Boom. With that newfound establishment, the company seems to have tackled a more grown-up show this time around. Rest assured though, the production is still very much what we've come to expect from West Side Show Room. The evolution of the company has been a delight to see, from their opening production which was all about fun, to the unexpectedly poignant Milk Milk Lemonade (which was one of the most comprehensively excellent productions Rockford has seen recently), and now on to a show that genuinely makes you think, thought not in an overt or pretentious manner, in Boom.

Aside from that, there are some other new things in store for those who come to see a performance. This is a smaller cast,, for one thing. From a design standpoint, this is definitely the most grounded, "real world" setting that WSSR has done (created by designer Brandon Severing), favoring strict representation over interpretation. It's ok to mix things up once in a while, and it shows that this crew can present a variety of different things well visually.

The show concerns the end of the world, though on an intimate scale rather than through catastrophic spectacle. A cataclysmic event finds two college students, Jules and Jo, trapped in a bunker, riding out the apocalypse. Jules, played by Alex Ruano, has planned ahead and seen this end coming. Ruano plays him awkwardly, as any science-majoring doomsday theorist probably should be. The awkwardness is quite honest and frank though, and thusly even a bit likeable and relatable by way of that honesty. Adriana Contreras handles the character of Jo well, particulary in the way the character changes throughout the course of the show, starting off as rather laid back, with a sarcastic confidence, then assuming a frenzied denial as her realization of doomsday's reality sets in, and then finally devolving into a frantic, fish-conversing madperson. There is also Carolyn Cadigan, a WSSR familiar, as Barbara. Half narratorial tour guide, half expressive timpanist, it's probably best not to give away her part to play in the storyline, though Cadigan is quite hilarious in the role.

The show is quite funny, eliciting many laughs. There are a few (intentionally) overly dramatic expository sequences whose dialogue is cringe-worthy, accompanied by requisite music that is equally cheesy, plus Cadigan's exagerrated expressiveness, both facial and phsyical, is always on point. Much of the show's strength comes from the script, although that isn't to diminish the acting and directing that make it work. That script also manages to slip in some things that will make you think, concerning topics like determinism, free will, and even the forces that originated life itself. Worry not, though. It's never preachy or heavy-handed, nor does it tell you what conclusion to draw. Instead, you'll likely do your thinking after the curtain has fallen.

On the surface, the show is more of the over the top fun the company is known for, but for those who venture to "think between the lines" as it were, there is a whole different layer to the play. To present these two qualities in parallel is impressive. Whether you desire simply to laugh, or to dust off your brain, this production will satisfy both itches. So perhaps it could be said that West Side Show Room is maturing, while still having fun at the same time. To see a theatre company evolve is always welcome, and this production shows that the Show Room has the potential to become quite the multifaceted provider of entertainment.

You have three more chances to catch the show: Tonight at 9, Saturday at 9, and Sunday at 7. Buy tickets through their website or at the door. Go. Laugh, have some fun. Think a little bit, too. You won't regret it.