nytheatre.com review by Eric Winick
August 15, 2007
There's a potentially funny, poignant premise in Andy Gershenzon's play The End: following some kind of apocalypse, you're one of the last two men on Earth. A beautiful young woman enters your life. She may be the last woman alive. Your buddy leaves for a while. You spot the potential immediately—if you can make it with this chick, you and she could begin repopulating the world, maybe start a little family.
There's just one small problem: she's not really into you.
What length stage play could be culled from this premise? 15, 20 minutes, tops? As a sketch, the piece would probably kill at—what? Five minutes? Ten?
Alas, this is not the case with The End, which strives to say a lot of Big Things about the world, the state of male/female relations, survival, and just about everything else under the sun. It runs around 80 minutes.
At rise, we're introduced to our main characters. Gus is a scrawny, motor-mouthed geek in ripped T-shirt and jeans who talks, apparently, for the sake of hearing his own voice. As Gus blathers, his "roommate" Jacob sits staring at the audience, on permanent slow boil, inviting us to share his pain. Desperately hungry, their world having succumbed to some kind of calamity, the men are a step away from cannibalism. Director Christopher Denham ratchets up the tension skillfully in these opening moments. We know a confrontation is imminent. We just don't know... how imminent.
That's when Trish appears, wearing a gas mask, clutching a butcher knife, and the dynamic changes considerably. Seizing his opportunity, Gus claims he's spotted a pig, and Jacob volunteers to locate and slaughter it. Suddenly alone with Trish, Gus launches into a verbal onslaught designed, it seems, to seduce and repel the woman, who gradually opens up to Gus, presumably out of pity. After all, he doesn't seem dangerous. Or does he? As Gus's amorous streak emerges, Trish realizes, having taken shelter from a lawless land, she's fighting for her life all over again.
Denham stages all of this simply, allowing his actors to stalk one another on a bare stage under minimal, effective front lighting (courtesy designer Seth Reisner). Unfortunately, his production moves at a snail's pace—there's just the barest outline of a plot, and none of Gus's ranting proves compelling or dramatic enough to forward the narrative.
In the hands of another actor, Gus might come across as desperate, pathetic, and at least elicit sympathy from the audience. A shame, therefore, that Gershenzon has cast himself in the role, as he is unable to locate the few shards of shade and nuance in the character. He is fortunate, however, to be sharing the stage with Happy Anderson, whose fierce, determined (and all-too-brief) performance as Jacob suggests an angrier version of John Goodman's character in The Big Lebowski. In the thankless role of Trish, Christina Pumariega's performance seems dependent on whom she's acting opposite—not surprisingly, she's at her best in her scenes with Anderson.
One hopes that, should The End truly come, it will add up to a bit more than this.