Just saw two shows at the end of their runs this past weekend, both linked by “wit in the face of adversity,” that adversity being Death: One, a bittersweet character study, the other a delightful romp. One, FREUD’S LAST SESSION, is really a debate over the existence of God (camouflaged with clever conversation and gentle humor). The other, END OF THE WORLD, A COMEDY IN TWO ACTS, is a cheeky musing on catastrophe: The earth is about to exit the Milky Way via a big bang from an asteroid. (The populace behaves badly.)
Mark St. Germain’s talky two-hander finds the literary scholar C.S. Lewis at Sigmund Freud’s door, not knowing how he will be received, having just satirized the father of psychoanalysis in print. Freud is glad for the diversion to “short circuit” the excruciating pain he suffers from oral cancer. He’ll be dead within the year. St. Germain might have made his play a vitriolic or even a cathartic exercise. Thankfully he didn’t. He staves off gloom and doom with pleasant repartee, like Lewis’ quip about religion: “The great problem of Christianity is the Christians.”
Director Jim Petosa is blessed with two fine actors to bring these icons to life on the New Rep stage. Joel Colodner makes Freud not nearly as pompous as we imagine he would be and Shelley Bolman makes the Christian apologist surprisingly accommodating and exceedingly kind. We’re left thinking that had time and fate allowed, they might have been friends.
Elizabeth Dupre’s hilarious END OF THE WORLD (@ Boston Actors Theater) finds a wacky bunch of scientists at odds with a plummeting asteroid and, if that weren’t enough, with two meddling government officials who insist on hovering about and making their lives difficult. What’s more, their repeated efforts to knock the “near earth object” off course are a crashing failure… But Dupre isn’t so much interested in a typical apocalyptic scenario as she is in screwball comedy, arriving in a satirical vehicle with sweet romance in its trajectory. It reminded me of THE AWFUL TRUTH or any of Preston Sturges’ wooly scripts.
The banter is smart, hip and brimming with delicious topical, not to mention theoretical allusions. Director Drew Jacobs’ cast hits the mark squarely, with a nicely nuanced performance by Rebecca Strong as the bright lead scientist with a secret. Alex Jacobs personifies British cool as he supplies the quips and quarks that keep them coursing on.
Elizabeth Battey delivers her prankster role like it was mother’s milk and Bailey Libby nails that vacuous look that only television reporters can summon up at will (and she gets to own another funny, “aghast” face later). David Anderson makes those badge-sporting secret service operators look sedated next to his red-faced, four alarm attitude (made even more hysterical when he curls himself into a ball). Laurie Singletary’s over-the-top, take-no-guff agent is a veritable insurgence of female power to rival any man’s army. In short, Dupre’s fresh, wildly amusing take on death and destruction puts her on my list of favorite local playwrights.