Deborah Zoe Laufer’s "End Days" at Indianapolis’s Phoenix Theatre is a comedy about a family whose father, Bill Simmons, has been paralyzed by the killing of his entire staff in the World Trade Center on 9/11, a mother, Martha Jacobs, who’s energized only by a manic dedication to a Christianity focused only on saving souls for the imminently coming rapture and a daughter, Phebe Taylor, who’s escaped into the goth personality of an atheist of convenience.
Like Charles Dickens’ Scrooge the family has three visitors. There’s the ghost of Christmas past Jesus Christ, who mostly smiles and helps out the mother. There’s the ghost of Christmas to come, astro-physicist Stephen Hawkins who offers the daughter advice on a variety of topics including how to get into her stubborn school locker. In a neat thematic and bit of theatrical economy, they’re both played by Mathew Roland. Then, there’s the ghost of Christmas present…well… this is really a stretch, but it’s hard to describe the daughter’s precociously precious wannabe boyfriend, played with amazing charm by Mathew Van Oss without a stretch. I mean this is a little sun shinney blur of optimism in skinny little kid who insists on wearing an Elvis suit.
"End Days" suffers dramatically from a central character that is pretty unattractive. The maddened mother’s character is always on the edge of rant. She’s so caught up with her external good works that she ignores her family. Her final conversion, and the show’s ending seems tacked on. It also suffers from a lack of understanding of the deep or shallow aspects of the Judaism that the family has abandoned. In fact it could use a bit more intelligence about rapture and end of days as well.
However it does have some very funny scenes. The warmly believable father’s return to life is a warm moment, and the love story of the geeky boy and the more and more charmingly gothy girl is both funny and quite touching.
Deborah Zoe Laufer’s "End Days" plays Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday matinees at Indianapolis’s Phoenix Theatre through February 3rd
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