Andrew Garman and Matt Farabee
in A Bright New Boise
(© Stephen Taylor)
Andrew Garman and Matt Farabee
in A Bright New Boise
(© Stephen Taylor)
Samuel D. Hunter has effectively rendered himself a playwright to watch with A Bright New Boise, at the Wild Project, a quietly affecting drama that delves into the always thorny issues of faith, forgiveness, and second chances with great eloquence and compassion. Moreover, director Davis McCallum and his eminently capable ensemble have created a world premiere production that pulses with electric performances that are as honest as a hard day's work at minimum wage.

Those happen to be the sort of jobs Hunter's characters hold, as employees of a craft superstore called Hobby Lobby. The newest hire, Will (Andrew Garman), leaves a couple of cloudy points off his application: that he's the birth father of Alex (Matt Farabee), a high school student who also works at the Boise store, and that he was once a member of a Evangelical church/cult whose leader's actions led to a young man's death.

Will feels responsible for the tragedy, and he's not the only one whose life has fallen into a spiritual black hole. High-strung Alex, who feels no connection to his foster parents, is at best guarded and at worst hostile to Will. Shy Anna (Sarah Nina Hayon), who hides in the store after closing to read books, finds companionship in the attractive, like-minded Will. Leroy (John Patrick Doherty), Alex's prickly aspiring-artist foster brother and fellow coworker, takes a quick dislike to Will when he discovers his connection to the notorious church. Only Pauline (Danielle Slavick), the ever-so-efficient store manager, couldn't care less who feels what about whom -- as long as everything runs efficiently.

Hunter pushes his characters into dangerous emotional territory, but the playwright brings humanity and humility to his repressed characters as they struggle to connect and find a means of self-expression. In addition to Leroy, who creates anti-establishment T-shirts, Will uses his blog to express his religious convictions by writing a novel about the Rapture, while Alex pens angry songs and harbors performance artist ambitions. All of this unfurls gradually as the characters continue to surprise us.

McCallum takes his cast to beautifully nuanced heights, with Garman and Farabee especially affecting; Will's gentleness and concern for his son stand in sharp contrast to Alex's distraught rebelliousness. And it's the little details that enhance the production, including Whitney Locher's bureaucratically bright employee shirts, Jason Simms' appropriately bland break room set (which creates some hilarious moments as characters exit or enter), Raquel Davis' sharp lighting, and M. Florian Staab's vivid sound design.