This is the dilemma presented by A Bright New Boise by Sam Hunter, in a fine production by Simpatico Theatre Project directed by Jill Harrison.
Regardless of your answers to the questions, the play, sustained by some superb acting, is engrossing and considerably creepy. All the characters work for Hobby Lobby, and we see them only in the dreary break room, where TV monitors flip up and back between droning sales pitches and weird and gruesome medical close-ups (the ingeniously awful set was designed by Ian Paul Guzzone).
The central character, Will (Kevin Bergen in a remarkably nuanced and persuasive performance) has left his town and his church to reunite with his son Alex (the excellent Aubie Merrylees) whom he hasn't seen since the boy was an infant. Alex is troubled by panic attacks and manipulates people by saying, "Stop," followed by, "Or I'll kill myself."
Alex's older brother Leroy (Robert Carlton, who seems painfully self-conscious onstage) is supposed to be an artist but his rage against the machine merely takes the form of crude T-shirts. Anna (Jessica Dalcanton) is an odd young woman who keeps getting fired and keeps reading the same book and is fascinated with death. Running the store is Pauline (Catherine Palfenier) who knows that what's important is money and keeping the customers happy.
These people are all desperate for meaning or for redemption or for something: As Will says, "Without God, I'm just a terrible father who works in a Hobby Lobby and lives in his car. There's got to be more."
Paradoxically, the "more" is the destruction of the world, as he awaits the Rapture.
A Bright New Boise is an unusual night in the theater.
Simpatico Theatre Project
At Independence Studio on 3, Walnut Street Theatre, 9th and Walnut. Through Oct. 21. Tickets $10-22. Information: 215-423-0254 or www.simpaticotheatre.org.