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Theater Review:

Flawed, but overall a good ‘End’

October 27, 2009|By Melonie Magruder

In SkyPilot Theatre Company’s production of “The End of Civilization” at the Sidewalk Studio Theatre, too-long-out-of-work Henry voices his frustration in an anger that captures the economic zeitgeist of today, ripping a corporate titan who knows that “the only thing standing between him and his profits is a little human misery.”

Poor Henry, laid off a couple of years before, embodies that human misery and, as his helplessness becomes hopelessness, Henry’s response to the suspension of society’s rules for normal civilization is to start killing people.

The play, written by Canada’s prolific George F. Walker, is part of his cycle of pieces that take place in one seedy suburban motel room. With generally excellent ensemble acting, the SkyPilot group brings alive the darkly comic angst of a couple caught up in the downsizing of America.

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Henry and Lily (Eric Curtis Johnson and Jaime Andrews) leave their kids with relatives, ignore their mounting late mortgage payment notices and hit the road to find him employment.

Johnson admirably captures a man rendered paranoiac and humiliated by his jobless status, alternately pleading for emotional support from his wife and belittling her efforts to help.

Lily’s Hail Mary pass at financial salvation sees her turning to the sex trade as her husband becomes increasingly alienated.

Andrews has a compelling voice, but her body language doesn’t seem to reflect the unbearable pressure or desperation of her situation.

When detectives show up to inquire about her husband, she seems about as alarmed as a woman folding laundry.

Phillipe Simon and Bob Rusch incisively portray Detectives Max and Donny, a couple of flatfoots on to Henry who are gradually drawn into the human drama and marital dynamic of the suspected killer and his wife.

When Donny realizes that Lily is an old high school crush, he pushes the boundaries of appropriate behavior. Rusch’s Donny apparently has seen too much moral compromise in his work, and his confused blow-back is funny and pathetic.

Into the mix comes Gemma Massot’s Sandy, a nonjudgmental prostitute with a sympathetic ear for Lily’s problems.

Everyone deals with stress differently: Henry murders, Lily hooks. When it becomes evident that Sandy is the only character onstage with any kind of moral center, you know these people are in trouble.

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