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The Rapture Turns Out To Be Significantly Funnier Than Expected in 'Revelation'
There is clearly something in the zeitgeist these days about the imminent end of the world. Whether it's the zombie apocalypse of The Walking Dead or World War Z or the mysterious threats in the upcoming The World's End, the end times seem to be much on the mind of popular culture. What exactly this popularity means is up for debate, but one of the things this story structure allows for is a focus on character, after most external trappings have been stripped away. Samuel Brett Williams' Revelation, in its terrific world premiere production by the Elephant Theatre Company, does just that and is very funny in the bargain.
Rebecca (Zibby Allen), in bed one morning with her lover, is rudely awakened by her next-door neighbor, Brandon (Marco Naggar), who is there to tell her that the Rapture is underway. Rebecca doesn't believe Brandon until her unfortunate bedmate walks outside and bursts into flames. Brandon, brought up as a faithful evangelical, tells her they need to leave New York to travel to Arkansas, where his preacher father had told him New Jerusalem would appear as a last chance for sinners to be redeemed. The pair make their way across the country, encountering a variety of crazed humanity, from a pervy professor with a plague to violent interrogators. As the journey progresses Rebecca begins to regain some religious belief, while ironically Brandon's faith starts to crumble.
Naggar is excellent as the earnest and well-meaning Brandon, capturing both the comedy of the character's naïveté and his frustration as he realizes that being a good person is not simply about following rules. Allen takes a role that isn't entirely convincing as written and makes it work in performance through her comedic skill and charm. Patrick Pankhurst is appropriately smooth as the suave (if boil-covered) Dr. Wilcox, and Chloe Peterson is sympathetic as the doctor's trusting companion Annie. Micah Cohen steals the show with his adroit portrayal of the half-tongued captor David, mangling his lines with hilarious finesse, with his explanation of what Lost was really all about a particular highlight. Tony Gatto is imposing but not completely convincing as Brandon's father, Jacob, but Carolina Espiro is nicely blasé as the angel Michael. It should be noted that several roles are double-cast in this show.
Lindsay Allbaugh's direction is efficient and creative, surrounding the audience with interest and spectacle, and her solutions to showing characters on a boat or driving a car are elegant in their simplicity. She also uses Corwin Evans' superb projections to good effect, from displaying a seemingly rotoscoped TV reporter to creating flames and rivers of blood for the biblical apocalypse. I think this show might be even stronger in a smaller venue, but that's just a quibble. Williams' episodic play is consistently amusing, and the religious issues it raises are compelling, reminding me of the underrated Michael Tolkin film The Rapture, if not so heavy in tone. Finally, though, it's the relationship between Brandon and Rebecca that makes Revelation more than just a collection of funny scenes, the observation that how we treat each other in the here and now is just as important as any faith in an afterlife.
"Revelation" plays at the Lillian Theatre through August 25. Tickets are available online.