Deborah Zoe Laufer. author of Carpenter Square’s presentation “End Days” is likely pleased with the interesting production from Carpenter Square Theatre. While the title indicates a very serious topic, “End Days” is, in fact, a light-hearted comedy and Director Joe DiBello makes the most of the humor with his considered casting.
The play concerns a typically dysfunctional modern American family, still reeling from 9/11/2001. The father is depressed, the daughter is rebellious Goth, and mom, saved and convinced the world cannot survive. This enthusiastic mother is quite certain that the rapture is imminent and is seeking to ensure that her family joins her when Jesus returns to bring those who repentant home. A neighbor is a teenage boy who has a crush on daughter Rachel and he becomes a virtual resident of the home. Hallucinatory characters are Jesus and Stephen Hawking who visit family members.
Mom is Sylvia Stein, portrayed by TooToo Cirlot. Cirlot intuits a very reasonable, logical zealot as she fights to save her family. She makes her imaginary Jesus seem believable and realistic. Terry Veal portrays Jesus and although this character is somewhat ridiculous, Sylvia Stein’s imagination becomes plausible. Tad Thurston is Arthur Stein the depressed husband and father who can’t seem to wake up and get dressed before his nap. JJ Arends is Rachel, the rebellious teenage girl who retreats behind her Gothic façade but is looking for a chance to shed her cynicism long enough to enjoy life. Neighbor Nelson Steinberg is charmingly portrayed by Kyle Lacy as his obvious façade cannot hide his joy in living. Lacy creates a character, wise beyond his years and simple enough to peer over the walls the Stein family erects.
Victims of the modern world, these five people are living the tragedies that mark this era. But like all truly tragic characters there is hope. It is often the case that the hope can best be expressed through laughter, the magic that gets us through the day. And the play has that magic. Director DiBello has taken this cast through that magic mist, and the audience has an opportunity to laugh with these characters as well as at them.
There is a slight dis-connect between the imaginary Jesus Veal creates for Sylvia and the personality that Cirlot creates for Sylvia. Nevertheless, the chemistry between the two characters is delightful. Veal is also imagined as Stephen Hawking by Rachel, and while this Stephen Hawking is unusual, he is quite right for a teenager to imagine and as a result the interplay between Veal and Arends is delightful. The relationship between Arthur and Nelson evokes the same connection as Arthur uses Nelson to cope with his situation. Thurston and Lacy cherish the same acceptance. Lacy’s portrayal of Nelson is fascinating. Nelson is a simple young man with a complicated façade that creates a barrier of humiliation for him. He dares not let it go until he recognizes that he can be acceptable and loved for himself. This is a fine line for a young actor to walk and Lacy has incredible balance making him ideal for this role.
Laufer’s choice to bring this story to an audience through comedy is excellent and the cast of “End Days” express the humor with subtlety and intensity. DiBello gives us a great comedy, and a perfect show for families!
“End Days” can be seen at Carpenter Square Theatre, 800 West Main, in downtown Oklahoma City through July 21, 2012. Teens should grab their parents and call 405-232-6500 or visit the Email box office at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about the Carpenter Square, parents might want to check www.carpentersquare.com. “End Days” is not for the younger set as some inappropriate language is used, but what parent of teens hasn’t heard that before?