Sunday, February 15, 2009

Thank you, Jesus. For this play.

I have a secret. I wrote End Days, playing through February 22 at Seattle Public Theater. Deborah Zoe Laufer is my pen name.

OK, not really. Deborah Zoe Laufer is a Juilliard-trained up-and-coming young playwright. And I am a "blogger".

But if I had written a play, this is the one I wish I'd written. I know these characters. Really, really well.

Rachel Stein (played by Carolyn Marie Monroe), a super-bright goth teenager with a well-tuned bullshit detector, is completely exasperated with her clinically depressed father and born again mother. She thinks "optimism and joy are signs of low intellect." She really wishes someone would buy groceries. And she has to worry about Nelson (Anthony Duckett), who is geeky in the extreme, oblivious to social cues, and has a crush on her to the point of stalking her. He turns out to be the redemptive one, handily and cluelessly running circles around Jesus' appearances in the lives of these family members and even replacing Stephen Hawking in Rachel's affections.

This is a well-written comedy, in the classic sense. It's got it all: two couples who aren't together but should be, an interloper, dislocation, disguised identities, conflict between generations/ societies, and a reaffirming happy ending. And it's funny as hell. I really was afraid the woman next to me was going to pee her pants laughing when Nelson sang Torah as Elvis. (Or was that me).

Duckett's performance is fabulously large and goofy and unself-conscious. I don't know how he keeps a straight face. We saw Monroe as Ophelia last year (Green Stage Theater) and thought she was terrific. I'm even more impressed after seeing this performance and look forward to more from her around town. Evan Whitfield is corny and hilarious as both Jesus and Stephen Hawking.

Heather Hawkins as mom Sylvia plays the part with an intense earnestness that I remember from her performance last year in The Sweetest Swing in Baseball (also Seattle Public). I can't help thinking even more laughs could have been wrung out of this with a wider range of notes to her performance. Keith Dahlgren is a natural as dad Arthur. He does somnolent really well and wakes up to a renewed life convincingly.

And for director Carol Roscoe: was that Persepolis that Rachel was reading before getting turned on to Hawking? If so -- brilliant!

A very satisfying evening of theater. And bravo to Seattle Public Theater for putting on new work.


Weisenheimer said...

I totally agree with Sweetie on this review. I'm really looking forward to more performances from Carolyn Marie Monroe; she's great.

One thing: it was frickin' COLD in the theater! I couldn't feel my feet by intermission. I hope Seattle Public Theatre isn't so close to the edge that they can't afford just a little heat.

Lisa said...

Wow, you guys, this sounds fantastic. I have to see it!

Anonymous said...

Yep. She's reading Persepolis. I'm surprised at how many people notice. Glad you enjoyed it.

Sweetie the Official Scorer said...

Oh I'm glad to know for sure. At first I thought I was "so clever" for noticing, but then I realized all of us who love reading are always surreptitiously glancing over to see what someone else is reading on the plane, bus, cafeteria...aren't we? Clearly you're involved in the play, Anonymous, so -- thank you!

Anonymous said...

the building is owned by the parks department. I was told that complainants about the temperature inside should go to them.

Anonymous said...

Dear Weisenheimer and Sweetie,
Is there a way I can contact you offline?
If so, ping me here: rachelj at artswest dot org