Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Review - Everybody Dies (EdibleBrains Productions and the Planet Connections Theatre Festivity)

Review by Bryan Stryker

Everybody Dies tells the story of a love triangle set during a world-wide suicide pact. Charlton Heston (yes, the actor) has gained control of the world, and has convinced everyone that the only way to achieve happiness is to prepare to transition to the afterlife. The moment of transition is preordained, and he will soon announce its coming. His power is so prevalent that DJ Don (Levi Morger) and DJ Peggy (Carly Robbins) of station WCHR play nothing but Charlton Heston's favorite hits.

Eva (Jenna Doolittle) leads one of the local chapters that assists those in planning their transition - something they are reminded is not the end, it's just the beginning. Led by her gal pals Britanny (Miranda Child) and Carrie (the excellent Candice Palladino), they revel in their moment as they plan what they consider to be the most excellent day of their lives - the end of their lives. Her boyfriend Tom (Stephen Dexter) isn't sold on the idea of transitioning and seems more sold on trying to get into Eva's pants. In a subplot, Carrie reveals to Eva that she is pregnant - a severe no-no as she cannot be pregnant when the transitioning begins or it will be considered an abortion and she cannot enter the afterlife.

Meanwhile in New York City, Jane (Laura Perloe) and her band of renegades Bree (Leah Dash) and Taylor (Alley Scott) are trying to find a way to survive the upcoming transitioning and lead the resistance. Jane returns to her hometown intent of bringing her ex-boyfriend Tom into their fold and spirit him away to New York. When the "transitioning time" is announced we follow the cast as they make plans to either join in the mass suicide or challenge the notion that one person could control their lives and future.

On paper that doesn't sound like such a bad conceit: an alternate reality where a Jim Jones/Marshall Applewhite figure controlling the fate of the entire world announces that it's time to go. Get dressed up, head to your transitioning center, and off to the afterlife. In reality, the play is a jumbled mess with more questions than answers. How did Charlton Heston come to rule the world? Why was the decision made to "transition"? How did Jane get involved in the counter-revolution and why does it only have two other members? Why is Tom resisting transitioning? Following Maggie Rydzel's script simply takes too much work and provides too few answers.

Director Russell Dobular succeeds in highlighting the humorous moments of the piece and effectively transitioning from one scene to the next. The spare set consisting of a few modular boxes and chairs works effectively to keep the show moving. However, the lack of lighting design and low production values give the show a community theatre feel.

Jenna Doolittle's Eva comes off as a post-apocalyptic Heidi Montag - and no, that's not a compliment. While one could say that the over-the-top dramatics are required for such an outrageous play, they could be toned down significantly and still get the necessary response.

Laura Perloe's Jane is a modern day Patty Hearst type, complete with beret. While still extremely theatrical, her portrayal is far more believable as the rogue counter-revolutionary. Her intent and desires are real - she does want to reshape the world when the transitioning is done. Perloe is one of the best parts of Everybody Dies. Each moment she is on the stage is a pleasure.

Stephen Dexter's Tom, the love interest of the two female leads, does yeoman's work in this piece, but sometimes seems to be used more like set dressing - merely a pair of tight jeans and a wife beater. But he amuses playing the horny teenager who sees nothing wrong with grabbing his girlfriend's breasts and making contorted faces as he wavers from joining the transitioning to joining Jane in the resistance.

Notable standouts in the ensemble include Miranda Child as the creepy Brittany, who takes delight in announcing the transitioning with the wide-eyed, happy grin of a fully dedicated cult member. Candice Palladino as pregnant Carrie leaves one of the greatest impressions in a key scene as she decides to deal with her pregnancy. With the audience noticeably fidgeting in their seats and giving an ear-piercing scream, Palladino cements her spot as the person the audience is most likely to talk about when the lights come up.

Finally, Carly Robbins and Levi Morger, as the two DJ's counting down the time to transitioning provide a touching scene. DJ Don clearly longs for his radio partner and as they share a final kiss right before they are to transition, they both admit that it was something that they had wanted to do for some time. When DJ Don leans in to kiss again, he is stopped by Peggy and told that "it wasn't that great."

Sadly, neither was Everybody Dies.

Everybody Dies
Written by Molly Rydzel
Directed by Russell Dobular
Sound Design: Jeremy Pape

Featuring: Anthony Mead (Tom's Mom/Man 2/CHer), Alley Scott (Taylor), Candice Palladino (Carrie), Carly Robbins (DJ Peggy), Jenna Doolittle (Eva), Laura Perloe (Jane), Leah Dashe (Bree), Levi Morger (DJ Don), Marek Sapieyevski (Jane's Mom/Man 1/CHer), Miranda Child (Brittany), Stephen Dexter (Tom)

Planet Connections Theatre Festivity
440 Studios
440 Lafayette Street, 3rd Floor

Closed June 21st

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