Apocalypse Soon at Ghostlight Theatricals (Ballard)
I attended this production on the closing night of a 2-night run on January 28, 2012. What a fun idea for theatre! Every season, Ghostlight invites directors to produce a 20-minute adaptation of a classic work in a competition they have dubbed Battle of the Bards. Courtney Meaker, friend and colleague, devised her own piece to direct. She has adapted classic religion and mythology into a new work called Apocalypse Soon. What a great title. And what a great play! Although the audience only experienced a well-rehearsed 20-minute excerpt of this yet-to-be-completed play, I could already tell it’s gonna be good.
But back to what I saw that Saturday night. For Apocalypse Soon, Meaker deviated from the “formula” and yet remained true to the spirit of a production for “Bards.” Meaker did not have to struggle with adapting historical plot devices from Shakespeare or Chekhov to what can sometimes be a simpler version in the modern day. Usually, the result leaves the playwright in an inescapable corner and the audience very confused. Instead, she gathered up the big names of western and eastern mythology – Eve, the Serpent, Pele, Mother (of all things), Buddha, and others – and gathered them all at a retreat. A retreat to decide on the end of the world.
Overall, I was very pleased with the performance I saw. The dialogue was sharp, relevant, funny, and timeless. Meaker didn’t rely on current events to make her jokes but yet every bit of humor rang true because it was universal. The staging was simple, elegant, and effective. Some of the funnier dialogue moments were lost because of added stage business that detracted from the speaker, drawing out laughs from the audience at the wrong times. However, that would be solved quickly by utilizing a different playing space. Setting this play in the round would enhance the feel of “gathering around the campfire” and allow the audience to have a soft focus on the 9 actors, choosing when and where to place their attention.
The performance was exciting, had high energy, and I could tell the audience really enjoyed it. What is more exciting will be to see where Meaker will take Apocalypse Soon. The entire premise is intriguing: immortal religious figures – some metaphors, some human, some deities – are all gathered to decide upon the fate of the Earth. However, at the end of the scene, Orpheus, a lamenting grunge folk singer, brings up a good point. Who is to say that any of them will survive?
What will happen to the characters in the play? Will they have the chance to choose who stays or goes or is that even up to them? The only humans onstage are Orpheus and Jesus, who are both immortal. Will a mortal human get to throw his hat in the ring? (Or her hat!) Only Meaker knows and only time will tell.
I will be sure to update about any more readings, workshops, or performances of Courtney Meaker’s Apocalypse Soon.