REVIEW & COUPON: BAT’s ‘End Days': ‘you will be entertained and provoked’
by Shelli Park
“If this is all we have, it’s not so bad.”
We are all a little broken. Through this life’s adventure we get knocked about and bruised, adapting to the pain with our own coping mechanisms. We look for answers, comfort, and maybe, some healing.
“End Days,” written with the hand of empathy by Deborah Zoe Laufer, is a heart-warming and funny story of broken people brought together at the right time, in the right place, to help each other affect the change needed to heal. Don’t mind the hallucinations.
This Burien Actor’s Theatre production, played in the refurbished space at the Annex thanks to the City of Burien, opens to projections (designed by Craig Orsinger) of star-clustered deep space accompanied by mystical melodies, composed by Allan Loucks, setting the tone for esoterical and humorous discussions of religion and science. But don’t let that scare you. The play is filled with extremely accessible characters played by a very capable cast. The projections and music are used throughout the play to create a fluency.
Laufer’s imagination creates a mini-universe in which the lives of the Stein family (mother, Sylvia, father, Arthur, and daughter, Rachel) collide with a schoolmate of Rachel’s, Nelson Steinberg.
Nelson (Brad Walker) is a brilliant, socially awkward young man who wears an Elvis costume. He has had a tough life, never quite settled. He has become enamored with Rachel (Gemma Cody-Anders), an equally brilliant goth-girl with anger issues.
Walker plays Nelson wonderfully. He nails the character’s openness and beautiful naivete. Nelson is a young man who wears his heart on his sleeve and through his generous nature, wins over the Stein family.
Nelson and Arthur are the first to make a connection. Arthur (Russ Kay) is a seriously depressed man who recognizes the non-judgemental nature of Nelson and latches on to the young man, as one grabs onto a lifeline. Kay begins the play with the heaviness which accompanies depression, and creates a convincing path of evolution to lightness as the play progresses. His awakening, a resurrection of sorts, is beautiful.
Both Kay and Walker are amazing singers. When Kay sang the Torah Portion I closed my eyes and let it flow through. A transcending moment.
Cody-Anderson, as Rachel, is a joy to watch. Her acting skill and range is full. She can only develop from here, and that is very exciting. Cody-Anderson is a natural onstage. She spits fire convincingly as the angry teenager, and is able to control the evolution of her character as she subtly finds truth and healing as the play unfolds it’s magic.
The mother, Sylvia, (Brynne Garman) has made best friends with Jesus (Mark Gladding). Jesus is her surrogate husband while Arthur is incapacitated by depression. And she is Jesus’ most fiery advocate, spreading the word so that any and all may be saved before the Apocalypse arrives, which will come any day now. Rachel says that her mother is “waiting for the Apocalypse like a Greyhound bus”.
It takes a little time for Garman’s performance to feel engaging, but once settled in the action, she digs her heels in deep and takes us for the ride of the holy rollers! Jesus follows Sylvia, always there to be a helping hand. “Thank you, Jesus!” takes on a whole new meaning.
Gladding plays both the character of Jesus, and Rachel’s hallucinated character, the physicist Stephen Hawking. These are both iconic characters and an unskilled performance could easily cheapen the whole production. Gladding’s treatment of these men keep them grounded in the material when they could easily become caricatures. He takes us beyond what we expect as far as physical appearance so that we can get lost in his performance and vital interaction with the other characters.
The 9/11 incident in New York in 2001 is the catalyst for the deep dysfunction in the Stein family. Laufer doesn’t abuse the tragedy, throwing it our faces, and parading the victims. She handles it with care as a viable cause for the deep questioning of our existence here. She handles the spiritual and existential questions with deftness.
Jane Ryan, director, uses the effective stage design by Brandon Scalf, beautifully, directing this wonderful material to keep the action flowing. There were a couple of awkward moments which may have been either actor or director error, but nothing which stands out.
The costumes (Savannah Baltazar) and props (Maggie Lerrick) complete the production. The furniture in the living room, in a scene in the second act, visually mimics the characters emotional relation to each other. For costuming, from the goth make-up and dress which subtly softens over time, the shedding of the comfort-costume at a crucial moment, to the neglige which might seduce Jesus, Baltazar anchors the characters.
I recommend taking in Burien Actor’s Theatre’s latest production. You will be entertained and provoked into thinking a bit more deeply about life. It won’t hurt, I promise. You will walk away from “End Days” feeling that you are at the beginning rather than the end.
- Written By Deborah Zoe Laufer
- Stage Directed by Jane Ryan
EXCLUSIVE B-TOWN BLOG COUPON
Be sure to click and print this coupon to save $5 off:
- Saturday – May 17 at 8:00 p.m.;Late-night improv Turbo Turkey 10:30 to 11:30 p.m.
- Sunday – May 18 at 2:00 p.m.
- Friday – May 23 at 8:00 p.m.; Late-night Poets With A Purpose – 10:30 to 11:30 p.m.
- Saturday – May 24 at 8:00 p.m.; Late-night improv with Turbo Turkey 10:30 to 11:30 p.m.
- Sunday – May 25 at 2:00 p.m.
- Friday – May 30 at 8:00 p.m.; Late-night Poets With A Purpose – 10:30 to 11:30 p.m.
- Saturday – May 31 at 8:00 p.m; Late-night improv with Turbo Turkey 10:30 to 11:30 p.m.
- Sunday – June 1 at 2:00 p.m.
LATE NIGHT IMPROV!
BAT is pleased to be providing late-night entertainment. It started during “Noises Off”with improv by Turbo Turkey on Saturday nights:
During “End Days,” BAT has added Poets With A Purpose on Friday nights and has kept Turbo Turkey on Saturday nights. Both groups perform from 10:30 to 11:30 pm.
Why late night? BAT believes there is an audience looking for something to do on Friday and Saturday nights. Turbo Turkey and Poets With a Purpose are BAT’s attempt to reach out and make something happen:
If you come to see “End Days”on Friday or Saturday. please feel free to stay for the late night. Already seen “End Days”? Then come back just for Turbo Turkey or Poets With A Purpose. BAT is keeping the bar and concessions open, so stop by a early, have desert, or a late night snack, and a drink and then catch some improv or poetry and performance art.
‘End Days”runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 2 Pm through June 1.
Poets With A Purpose performs Friday, May 23 and 30. Turbo Turkey performs Saturday May 17, 24 and 31. Late night is from 10:30 to 11:30 pm. Late night is pass-the-hat, your donations are appreciated.
All shows are at BAT’s renovated theater space at 14501 – 4th Ave SW, Burien.
It’s true, the sidewalks do not roll up at 10 p.m. in Burien. Come and enjoy!
TICKET PRICES AND PACKAGES FOR END DAYS
Tickets at the Box Office:
- General: $20.00
- Senior/Student: $17.00
- DINNER AND A SHOW PACKAGE: This package includes a two-course meal at Mark Restaurant & Bar plus a ticket to the show; cost is $35 per person. Contact the Mark at 206-241-6275.
PHOTOS (by Michael Brunk; click images to see larger versions/slideshow):