Matthew Elkins, left, and Erik Odom in "A Bright New Boise" at… (John Flynn )
It’s hard to punch a timecard when you’re Rapture ready. Salvation can’t come fast enough in “A Bright New Boise,” Samuel D. Hunter’s anxious, funny look at the messianic and the mundane in America, now receiving a solid West Coast premiere by Rogue Machine Theatre.
After fleeing a scandal at his evangelical church, mild-mannered Will (Matthew Elkins) takes a minimum-wage job at Hobby Lobby, a big-box craft store managed by Pauline (Betsy Zajko). In the break room, Will’s co-workers Alex (Erik Odom) and his brother, Leroy (Trevor Peterson), fight corporate power with slam poetry and ironic T-shirts — one of which proclaims “You Will Eat Your Children,” hipster snark that becomes an eerie prophecy as the play unspools.
Hunter drops a terrific surprise early on that hooks you, and “Boise,” nominated for a Drama Desk Award last year, works as a tragicomic character study of real people trying to survive the wreck of their own lives.
Director John Perrin Flynn skillfully calibrates the story’s lurching reveals, although the strong cast yells its way too loudly through one or two key moments. Odom is particularly affecting as the confused, adopted Alex, and his outbursts of pain and need give the play its emotional center.
When Will wishes the end times would hurry up, his co-worker Anna (Heather L. Tyler) cheerfully suggests an alternative to his apocalyptic obsession: “You can just believe in something else!” After all, isn’t God just another hobby? That question may hang over the play, but what lingers is the portrait of schmucks like us who just need a little grace.
Hunter delivers these characters and their crucibles with tenderness and rage. For all its mistrust of religion, the play is a kind of prayer.
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“A Bright New Boise,” Theatre Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. 5 p.m. Saturdays, 7 p.m. Sundays, 8 p.m. Mondays. Ends Dec. 9. $30. (855) 585-5185 or www.roguemachinetheatre.com. Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes.