by: JK Clarke
Plenty of people have been talking about Armageddon and the end of time lately. Religious fundamentalists warn of fire and brimstone and the truly righteous being swooped up to heaven while the rest of us heathens languish in the devil’s clutches. But what’s seldom discussed is that final day. What if there was a warning? What if we had a little notice? How would we react, prepare for or conclude our time on earth? Well, Judgment Day, now at the Players Theater as part of the Fringe Festival, addresses that very, apparently absurd, circumstance.
Penned by Maria S. Schlatter, Donald Corren plays eight varied and wildly eccentric characters “living out the clock.” First there’s Richard Bell, a bitter, has-been news anchor in Sioux Falls; he brings to mind comic Fred Willard (and his “Best in Show” character), nipping at a flask and making thinly veiled lewd comments to his female producer in between announcements about news reports on the coming apocalypse: “We’ll have comprehensive coverage of the Soothsayers versus the Naysers . . . after the game.”
Then there’s angry and violent neurotic Brooklynite, Harvey ranting at his therapist; wheelchair-bound, non-believer and nattering geriatric, Eleanor Fuge; Kyle the creepy Pageant Dad who’s certain he’s not going to be left behind; British salty lush Phoebe Mumkit Kerfloofer, who can’t stop talking about her vaginoplasty; and so on, from a Russian cab driver to a failed writer encamped in a Starbucks to a sexually repressed preacher.
While Corren nails all the characters, hitting the comic beats quite effectively (he recently starred in Old Jews Telling Jokes), the humor is hit and miss. Some of the jokes are hacky, some groaners and some absolutely terrific. The different characters and some of their dialogues are evocative, as well. One character brings to mind an old SNL bit with Christopher Guest and Billy Crystal. And while most of the dialogue is more amusing than poignant, there are some emotional moments that land rather heavily.
What we end up with is a tableau of oddball characters, the like of which we’ve known in our lives or recognize partly in ourselves, perhaps. And on the precipice of the end of times the oddness of the “end” and who we are as people is what hits hardest, and we find ourselves asking: what is the point of it all, anyway?
But when all’s said and done, we can walk away amused and not concerned, with the words of rockers R.E.M. in our heads:
“It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)”
Judgment Day – Directed by Michael Schwartz. at Fringe Festival. Remaining performances: August 23 and 24 at The Players Theater (115 MacDougal Street @Minetta Lane).www.judgmentdayonstage.com