Apocalypse! Book One
nytheatre.com review by Alexander Zalben
August 15, 2004
One thing you can say for sure: We’re not in the middle of a political comedy shortage. Although I haven’t done a specific count, out of the 200 or so shows in the FringeNYC Festival, there are probably 3000 about how bad George Bush is at being President.
So what makes Apocalypse! Book One, a comedy show by the ETC… Theatre Troupe about what happens once Jesus joins the race against George Bush, worth your time?
Well, the acting, for one thing. The six-member cast amiably plays parts ranging from the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse to prominent press figures to the aforementioned Bush and Jesus, with wit and commitment. Robert Michael McClure is particularly good with very specific characters, including a soulful Jesus and a businessman who decides to be perfectly honest with his employees now that the apocalypse is nigh. Gene Perelson is also very good in a variety of goofy character roles. And although I’m not the hugest fan of impressions, he does a George Bush that doesn’t seem to be a knock-off of Will Ferrell’s iconic performance.
But the standout in the cast is Anne Johnson, who brings a brilliant comic subtlety to every role she plays. Whether playing a low-key Pestilence or a conservative news announcer, Johnson steals every scene she’s in.
The one quibble I have with the show, and it’s a big one, is that for taking on such weighty topics as the upcoming presidential election, religion, and the state of the world, there’s no real depth of analysis. As an audience, we’re already aware that Bush mispronounces words. That Cheney is evil. That the media spins things out of control. The best bits here are the small moments, where common people are faced with the threat of apocalypse. But these moments are too few and far between.
So where does that leave us at the end of the day(s)? Political comedy may not be in short supply, but good performances are. Go for the comedy, stay for the Anne Johnson.