by Josh Gross
Live theater doesn't really do sequels. Especially not on the local level. But as part of the city’s sesquicentennial celebration, local playwrights Evan Sesek and Jason Haskins at Alley Rep decided to buck that trend and pen a follow-up to their 2011 play, Voices From the Boise Hole, and it was a good decision. More about why the company decided to pen a sequel can be read in a Q&A with co-writer Evan Sesek after the jump.
Like the original, Voices From the Boise Hole 2 is a series of monologues from a selection of archetypal characters one is likely to encounter in the City of Trees: an Iraq vet working security; a high school girl having a bachelorette party on top of Camel’s Back; a housewife vending Scentsy candles, sex toys and more. One of the best monologues from the first play, a member of Boise State’s Fiesta Bowl championship team waxing nostalgic as he checks IDs at the door to a club at Sixth and Main, was carried over.
The second rendition of the play maintains much of the balance of bizarre and rolling comedy that typified the first, but cuts through much of the insider baseball references that handicapped it, making it far more approachable.
A tandem, dueling monologue between the last Occupy protester and a pitchman for The Citadel speaks to larger universal truths of the American condition as much as it does to Idaho; and a monologue by actor Declan Kempe, as the host of a TVTV community access program about video games, is painfully perfect, coming across as that awkward cousin we all dread discussing anime with at Thanksgiving. Justin Ness, bumbling around the venue talking about his favorite bars and wondering where he misplaced his gun, is the perfect drunk uncle from the same awkward Thanksgiving.
But beneath the approachable anywhereness of the pieces is a hyper-local emotional core depicting characters facing a city and region in transition—a once-sleepy suburb in the midst of an urban renaissance. It could be anywhere, and it could only be here in Boise.
A core component of the play is revisiting one of the characters at several points in her life. First as a high school girl about to get married, then as a young married woman and finally as a divorcee. Her path mirrors that of the city’s, and nicely ties the pieces together.
“Living in Pocatello now, is what living in Boise was like then,” the divorcee says.
The second act is a bit slower than the first, primarily since the comedic pieces are front-loaded. The play resolves with a darker and less playful tone, but remains engaging to the bitter end as a standout piece of theater that nearly anyone—theaterati or not—should be able to appreciate. Especially at the pay-what-you-will price that will endure through the show’s run.
Voices From the Boise Hole 2 runs at Visual Arts Collective through Saturday, April 20. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show starts at 8 p.m. All shows are pay-what-you-want admission.
Q&A with Evan Sesek
Boise Weekly: Why do another one?
Sesek: There was a few reasons. One was that I felt we had more to say about Boise and everything. Part of it was the Boise 150 thing and it felt right [that] to celebrate it the best way we could was with the theater. We also wanted to see if we could find another through-line ... and do things differently than we did last time. So we played a little bit more with some things, like audience interaction pieces. We just wanted to do something new.
BW: Will there be a third?
Sesek: I don’t know, it kind of depends. But I could see there being a third one. We had some ideas. As much as it’s about Boise and everything, it’s about people. So this time we’re just kind of exploring the future, where the city is going. That was the thing. Going back to why we do it, now the hole is being filled, so how do you do a show called Voices From the Boise Hole? It’s a sign of progress, and some people welcome the progress and some people are afraid of Boise turning into too big a city. So if we can find another thing, another theme, that we want to explore ... then maybe.
BW: So why did you carry over one monologue from the first play?
Sesek: So we originally had another future version of his that we were going to put in, but it didn't work out. But we still like having that one in there because it felt like it fit the theme we were going for about your past, your future.
BW: Why only the one running character?
Sesek: We had little, kind-of-sort-of connections, like where you heard Ralph’s voice on the answering machine. We kind of liked the idea of exploring the evolution of a woman’s life in three different monologues, and it worked well with seeing her marriage as past-present-future. We could have done it with the other characters, but it just felt right with those three stages. Originally, we had just a divorcee monologue. And then I had the teenage girl, but she was mostly talking about technology. And then we were like, "What if she were getting married young?" And then liked that as a through-line.
BW: What do you like about this one compared to the first one?
Sesek: The last one was more about what it’s like to live in a place that’s really livable but feels sort of stagnant at times. This one feels a bit more universal in the theme itself. This one is more about your life moving forward and it’s not stopping, or your city moving forward and it’s not stopping. I like that it feels a little more broad.