Kelli Lynn Harrison, Kate Hess, Lee Rosen, and Amy Rhodesin a publicity photo for Apocalypso!
Kelli Lynn Harrison, Kate Hess, Lee Rosen, and Amy Rhodes
in a publicity photo for Apocalypso!
William Donnelly's millennial comedy Apocalypso! is brought to us by Thermodynamic Theater Company. The press materials remind us that these are the same folks responsible for the downtown hit Spooky Dog and the Teen-age Gang Mysteries, but it's really not to their advantage to invoke that hilarious Scooby-Doo spoof, lest unrealistic expectations be created. Apocalypso! is an entirely different kind of play.

On Christmas Day, a homeless young woman announces the approach of the apocalypse to anyone who will listen. Her audience includes her own brother, who thinks she's crazy; barflies who are drinking the holidays away; and two sisters who can't communicate even well enough to get through a simple dinner. All of these characters, caught in dreary lives, sense that the homeless woman is right and that the end is coming; they all have scores to settle with one another and with themselves before it does: Boone needs to get over Gin, Gin needs to stop manipulating Boone, Walt needs to figure out where his loyalties lie, Dwight must make amends, Sherry must forgive Dwight, and Gus needs to do the right thing for once in his life. All of this has to happen before the world ends on New Year's Eve.

There are a total of eight characters in Apocalypso! and, with each scene, new aspects of their entwining lives are discovered. Donnelly weaves these relationships skillfully; the ways in which the characters come together and fall apart, are very real. However, Donnelly's dialogue is not so skillful--clever at times, yes, but with a false ring. The lines sound more like an acting exercise than real life speech, and the play suffers for it. Furthermore, though director Erin Brindley moves most of the action along quite smoothly, she fails to set a consistent tone for this 90-minute, eschatological, dark comedy.

The cast's best performers--Amy Rhodes, James O'Shea, and Kelli Lynn Harrison--do what they can with the lackluster dialogue and manage to gently reveal the complexities of the people they are playing. J.C. DeVore, who was fantastic as Scraggly in Spooky Dog, comes off as too cartoonish in the role of the spineless ex-husband of Rhodes' self-centered Gin but fares better as his character gains dimension (and develops a spine) in the second act. Kate Hess, another Spooky Dog alum, is charming as the wise yet sprightly messenger of doom.

Apocalypso! is uneven and seems a bit amateurish at times, but it does present an interesting portrait of people desperately trying to straighten out their lives it's too late. Perhaps this is partly due to poor timing: The play lacks the urgency that it might have communicated if it had been produced before we entered the new millennium, back when fear of the apocalypse was at its height and was, therefore, a better subject for both dramatic and comic fodder.