Sunday, February 7, 2010

Apocalypse is hilarious in Harlequin's End Days

We ventured down to the state capitol Friday to catch the Harlequin Productions staging of End Days by Deborah Zoe Laufer, and a marvelous show directed by Linda Whitney made the trip well worth the effort.

Superb, nuanced performances by Ann Flannigan as Sylvia Stein, born-again Mom bent on saving as many sinners as possible before the rapture on Wednesday, and Scott C. Brown as Arthur Stein, her spouse who has been virtually comatose since surviving the 9/11 attacks while most of his co-workers perished, were the centerpiece of the Harlequin production. That's them at right in a photo lifted from Brown's Facebook page.

The kids were all right, too. Amy Hill was great as the eternally angry goth chick Rachel Stein, their daughter. Rian Wilson played new neighbor Nelson Steinburg, an uber dork with a crush on Rachel, and who flips if he's not wearing his Elvis costume. Rounding out the cast was Robert McConkey, who plays both Jesus Christ and Stephen Hawking, who appear only to Sylvia and Rachel, respectively.

This is a hilarious play that takes on serious themes of religion, science, commitment, generations, and family. We saw the Seattle Public Theater production a year ago and it knocked our socks off,  earning Wisey nominations for Best Play, Actress, and Writer. The Harlequin production was also wonderfully entertaining. We especially liked Whitney's and Flannigan's decision to play Sylvia for more laughs, the comedy of her rants enhanced by her eyeball-rolling straight man, Jesus. We've seen Flannigan in several plays at Harlequin over the years, and she always delivers. Conversely, we thought Wilson put a little too much self-confidence into Nelson, who is constantly pelted by milk cartons and regularly whomped at school.

We could have done without the odd, acid-trip effects projected on a large screen at the back of the stage during scene changes and such. While it was a cool effect for the storm that blew through town at one point, mostly it was a distraction.

Harlequin is doing some great work, and End Days is a great play with a strong cast. Get thee to Olympia and see it, playing through Feb. 20.

1 comment:

Sweetie the Official Scorer said...

Love this play. Anthony Duckett's performance as Nelson in Seattle Public Theatre's 2009 production was a really, really tough act to follow. I thought Wilson was too puppy-dog cute; gave me the impression of a precocious talented kid trying to play a geek. Flannigan got a lot more comedy out of the role than Seattle Public's production. Great to see it again; this is one of my favorite plays ever.