End Days (Review)

ETC show uses humor to explore anxieties about carrying on

Mar 22, 2011 at 2:06 pm

The title of Deborah Zoe Laufer’s thoughtful comedy, End Days, says it all — the end is near. However, depending on which character you listen to, the shape of that conclusion is not clear. The play portrays a family changed by the events of 9/11, two years earlier.

Sylvia (Amy Warner) has flipped from being an atheist to a Jesus freak (she’s followed by an imagined Jesus, played by Michael G. Bath), while her husband Arthur (Barry Mulholland), the sole survivor of a company that operated in one of the Twin Towers, is a depressed narcoleptic hiding from horrific memories, unable to shed his pajamas or shop for groceries. Their daughter Rachel (Lily Hidalgo) hides behind Goth makeup, marijuana and a sullen attitude.

Enter a chipper young man, Nelson (Richard Lowenburg), an orphan wearing a crush for Rachel on the glittering sleeve of his 1970s Elvis jumpsuit. He’s the butt of jokes and physical abuse at school, but he is the catalyst who brings the Steins to a better place. That’s no small task in the face of Sylvia’s belief that The Rapture is imminent. She spends the second act gathering her family, hoping to drag them with her to the great beyond.

End Days has a lot of humor. Bath sheds his Jesus robes and wig to become a cartoon daydream of theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking who visits Rachel. Lowenburg’s Nelson never shuts up, babbling amusingly without a filter. I didn’t find enough connectivity in script or cast to make this show convincing and Warner’s portrait of Sylvia is so strident in her anxiety that she’s a tough source for humor. The play’s quick resolution happens so neatly it’s hard to believe anyone took their earlier fears seriously.

Nonetheless, Laufer’s witty writing makes End Days a play that many will enjoy.

END DAYS, presented by Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati, continues through April 3.