2012: A New Dawn
nytheatre.com review by Joshua Conkel
June 6, 2009
The ancient Mayans predicted that the end of human civilization would come on on December 21st of 2012. In 2012: A New Dawn (now playing in The Brick's Antidepressant Festival) this apocalypse comes in the form of space aliens who vow to send the Earth flying into the sun "within five business days." What follows is a very funny send-up of science fiction apocalypse films that uses a mix of live actors, sock puppets, and video.
A stand-up comedian, Roy, is experiencing anxiety over the impending and apparently well-publicized end of the world. Contrary to the opinion of his vindictive therapist (a sock puppet, naturally), he's not the only one. This is the throughline of what is really a loosely structured series of skits and videos around the theme of the apocalypse and the existential crisis it compels. We're treated to sock puppet versions of a lot of familiar faces along the way: from Barack Obama and his Cabinet under pressure, to Santa Claus and his elves in a very unfortunate turn of events. This is dark comedy at its darkest, to be certain.
The producing group, Afternoon Playland, is appropriately named. Watching 2012: A New Dawn is not unlike watching your demented nephews and nieces play with Star Wars action figures in the backyard: spastic, immature, and odd. I mean this as a compliment.
The hilarious video segments they've produced make corporate "diversity training" videos look like Fellini films and add a lot of charm to an already charming show. A confounding alien television commercial and a Mayan god pumping himself up for a night out while putting on deodorant in front of the bathroom mirror are just two particular favorites in the bunch.
It's difficult to mention any one actor specifically. With the exception of Roy (played by the appealingly nebbishy Roy Koshi) the performers play a number of roles and appear shrouded in black masks so as to allow us to better focus on the sock puppets. The gimmick works for the most part and, at the very least, I can say they all do very effective voice work. It's impossible to tell who is who, which only leads to a stronger sense of ensemble.
The program says the show was written and directed by Afternoon Playland, and this is where my one fault with the show lies. An outside eye might have polished the show a little more and smoothed out the bumpy transitions between scenes. Overall though this is a mere quibble.
In 2012: A New Dawn, Afternoon Playland has created an adorably twisted tale of apocalypse and man's quest for meaning. Michael Stipe of R.E.M. sang, "It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine."