John Manfredi and Eric Eilersen (seated), Lydia Hiller, Emily Sutton-Smith and Andrew Head (standing) in Williamston Theatre's production of "End Days". Photo: Chris Purchis
By Martin F. Kohn
Originally printed 2/7/2013 (Issue 2106 - Between The Lines News)
When religion is found wanting and science falls short, when atheism gets you nowhere and even rock 'n' roll (in the form of an Elvis-obsessed teen) doesn't have the answers, what's left?
After searching and searching, look a little closer to home, suggests Deborah Zoe Laufer in "End Days," her comedy (yes, comedy) at Williamston Theatre about a family traumatized by 9/11 and seeking redemption.
Dad Arthur (John Manfredi), the sole survivor among 65 colleagues at the World Trade Center, hasn't gotten out of his pajamas or left the house for years. His wife, Sylvia (Emily Sutton-Smith), raised as an Orthodox Jew, tried atheism before turning to evangelical Christianity; she spends her days hanging out with Jesus (Andrew Head) and preparing for the Rapture, which she's pretty sure will come on Wednesday because she asked Jesus to blink once for yes and two for no.
Arthur and Sylvia's daughter, Rachel (Lydia Hiller), is a super-smart 16-year-old whose attire makes your average Goth kid look like a Brooks Brothers model and who has conversations at her school locker with physicist Stephen Hawking (Head again). Next-door neighbor Nelson (Eric Eilersen) is a geeky high schooler in love with (A) Rachel, (B) science and (C) Elvis, whom he honors by wearing a glittery costume. Nelson has suffered a devastating trauma, too: Both his parents are dead, his father by suicide. He has turned to Judaism and is preparing for his bar mitzvah.
Into this cheery group comes - well, no-one, which is one of Laufer's points. If hell is other people, as Jean Paul Sartre famously postulated, couldn't salvation be, too?
How, or if, the play gets there makes for highly rewarding theater. Director Tony Caselli has a terrific cast in veterans Mandfredi and Sutton-Smith and the younger Head, Hiller and Eilersen. Manfredi's depiction of depression makes a basset hound look bouncy by comparison. Sutton-Smith's Sylvia projects a different kind of crushed spirit; proclaiming how happy she is having found Jesus, her demeanor is anything but joyful.
Hiller portrays the I'm-so-tough-nothing-can-hurt-me attitude and intellectual openness of a badly damaged, whip-smart teenager. As Nelson, Eilersen's combination of kindness, volubility, eagerness to please and percolating intelligence bubbles over into the human equivalent of a golden retriever puppy. Head's Stephen Hawking is spot-on, and for all we know so is his calm and gentle Jesus.
There is a lot of sound, a lot of light, many and varied costumes, a set that packs surprises and plethora of props for which credit is due, respectively, to Jason Painter Price, Ryan Davies, Lane Frangomeli, Kirk Domer and Alex Gay.
The play is at Williamston through Feb. 24, but that won't be the end of "End Days." It moves to West Bloomfield's Jewish Ensemble Theatre on March 6,
at the Aaron DeRoy Theatre on the campus of the Jewish Community Center, 6600 W. Maple Road, West Bloomfield, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, March 6-24, plus Wednesday, March 6 and 20. $38-$45. 248-788-2900. http://www.jettheatre.org
Williamston Theatre, 122 S. Putnam Road, Williamston. Thursday-Sunday through Feb. 24. 2 hours, 10 minutes. $15-22. 517-655-SHOW. http://www.WilliamstonTheatre.org
- Michigan Theater Presents New Wine & Film Series
- Things Get Hairy In East Lansing
- Prize-Winning Musical Packs Emotional Punch
- Performance Network To Host Ann Arbor Film Festival For Two Nights
- Ann Arbor Theater Performs Classic Children's Tale
- Make A Move With East Lansing's 'Chess - A Staged Concert'
- AIDS/HIV Organizations
- National Association of People With AIDS
- Auto Collision
- Dependable Collision Center
- Dino's Lounge
- D'Amato's Neighborhood Restaurant
- Short-term Interactive Couple's Therapy
- Moving Companies
- Bos Moving & Service, Inc.
- National Organizations
- American Civil Liberties Union, Lesbian and Gay Project
- Real Estate/Agent
- Pride Realty
- Religious & Spiritual
- Episcopal Church of the Incarnation
Enter contests to win great prizes like CDs, DVDs, concert tickets and more
- Anti-Gay Company Has Lapsed Michigan Mechanic's License
- Q&A: Scott Eastwood Endorses Father's Gay Marriage Mantra, Talks Sex Scenes ('I Was Turned On') & Mel Gibson's Advice
- Q&A: Reba Talks 'Very Important' LGBT Rights, Her First Gay Wedding & Feeling 'Sad' For Closeted Country Stars
- Is GoFundMe The New Welfare For Anti-Gay Corporations?
- Josh Groban Q&A: His Queer Bear Fans, Failing The Ryan Gosling 'Gay Test' & Why He Worships RuPaul
Sign up to receive our weekly newsletters today!
A study published in the journal The Lancet HIV reports that there is a significant disparity in HIV prevalence between black and white men who have sex with men. The study was published on Nov. 18 and found a startling 32 percent prevalence rate for black men who have sex with men, compared with only eight percent for white men who have sex with men.View More World AIDS Day
This Week's Issue
Download or view this week's print issue today!
Sign up to receive our weekly newsletters today!