End Days is a slog to a conclusions that's hardly worth the effort.
In Deborah Zoe Laufer’s play, you have a religious nut, her clinically depressed husband and disaffected daughter, Jesus Christ and Stephen Hawking (the latter two played by Terry Veal in a long wig and biblicalera robe or motorized wheelchair, depending on the character). It’s not quite as interesting as it sounds.
Sylvia Stein (TooToo Cirlot) has had a religious experience that compels her to proselytize at, among other places, an adult video store.
Her Goth-girl daughter, Rachel, is appalled by Mom’s behavior, while Sylvia’s atheist husband sits at home in his pajamas. Rachel’s high-school classmate Nelson Steinberg insinuates himself into the Stein household through sheer willpower and an infatuation with Rachel.
Directed by Joe DiBello, the CST production wouldn’t have much going for it without Kyle Lacy’s excellent performance as Nelson, who goes around in an unfortunate Elvis Presley costume of 1970s vintage.
As played by Lacy, Nelson is a good-natured, happy-go-lucky lad whom you can’t help but like. Lacy ends many of his lines with a disarming chuckle that’s authentic and revealing of his character’s desire for approval.
Nelson sums up his philosophy of life thus: “Life isn’t too bad. And even the bad parts are interesting.”
His geekiness results in bullying at school, but he insists the abuse by his schoolmates is just horseplay. This has ominous implications, as it echoes almost exactly the words of a harassed boy spotlighted in the recent documentary film, Bully. DiBello ends the play with Nelson on acoustic guitar and singing “Blue Suede Shoes,” for no obvious reason.
It’s difficult to write a credible play on a serious subject and include just the right amount of humor to make it palatable to audiences.
End Days was published in 2008, and the events of 9/11 must have weighed heavily on Laufer’s mind as she wrote. To me, the gist of the play is that the end of life can come when we don’t expect it, and it may not come when we do expect it.
As Rachel says, “If all we have is this — us — and one short lifetime, it’s not so bad.”