I loved this play. If you see only one play this year, I wouldn't feel amiss in saying, make Bust that one play. It is a one-woman tour de force. Former Daily Show correspondent Lauren Weedman is brilliant. Not only did she write this play, but she stars in it; she shimmers in it; she is simply stunning in it! From the moment the play opens with Weedman on her cell phone, rapidly relaying a story about her previous X-rated night in a bar, the audience is immediately taken in by the outrageous honesty of the character--who in this case is Weedman playing Weedman. However, she not only portrays herself but all of the other characters in the play, too. She renders them so well that, with each one,` I wanted her to keep going. I wanted to hear more from each one of them.
Bust recounts time Weedman spent volunteering in the California Correctional Institute for Women. She is not one to hide her own mistakes, and as one of the characters, she is disarmingly charming with her candor. We see her at the orientation for new volunteers; she arrives late, and is chastised by the workshop trainer. The humor is at its highest when each of the volunteers introduces herself and gives her background. In some places, the audience laughed so loud it was not possible to hear everything Weedman said.
When Weedman moves into the prison itself, the character portrayals are rich and poignant, and again, we get to see Weedman being her all-too-imperfect self, trying desperately to help the incarcerated women, largely by doing everything she was told not to do in the volunteer training. She is assigned to three women, and they are so aptly captured by Weedman that she actually appears to alter her appearance--the lighting, designed by Jessica Trundy, has a great deal to do with that effect. When Weedman is contacted by Glamour magazine for a story, the spotlight shines heavily on the face of Weedman as the Glamour editor. It has the effect of camera work, like a close-up. Then the lighting goes back to full stage and to Weedman's character, a struggling L.A. actor thrilled to have been contacted by a major magazine.
Weedman's outside life in L.A. with her vapid friends is also woven into the story; there are also great portrayals of the prison guards. The pace of the play is not interrupted by an intermission, and the story line moves along with drama and humor. Weedman captures the angst of human existence, and she is also a comic genius, particularly when depicting herself. As director Allison Narver says in the program notes, "Because it's Lauren, it's, well, fun." And, it's fun to watch Weedman as she spins from character to character. Bust is hugely entertaining. That one person could not only write the script but also deliver a non-stop 80-minute performance with steely verve is stupendous.
Bust was commissioned by Seattle's Empty Space Theatre in 2005--the year Lauren began her volunteer work at the L.A. County Jail. The play premiere was just last summer, so cheers to Boise Contemporary Theater for scoring a very contemporary play by a brilliant playwright.
Yes, it is cold out, but bundle up and leave your house to see this play. It is exceptional theater and well worth the trip. Bonus: There's hot chocolate at the concession stand!
Wednesday through Saturday through February 3, 8 p.m., matinees at 2 p.m. January 20, 27 and February 3. Tickets are $28.50 for Friday and Saturday night shows, $20 for Wednesday night, Thursday night and Saturday matinees. Boise Contemporary Theater, 854 Fulton St., 208-442-3232, www.bctheater.org.