Quirky lives, happy ‘Days'
The Hipp's ‘End Days' delivers big message about family, hope and life
Published: Thursday, January 6, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 5, 2011 at 1:21 p.m.
The Stein house is a small, strange battlefield.
What: Deborah Zoe Laufer's comedy about a quirky family and the members' acceptance of each other.
When: Friday through Jan. 30, showtimes are 8 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, 5 and 8:30 p.m. Saturdays, 2 and 7:30 Sundays; a preview performance is at 8 tonight.
Where: Hippodrome State Theatre, 25 SE Second Place
Tickets: $25-$30, $20 seniors and military personnel, $12 students; all seats are $12-$15 for tonight's preview.
Info: 374-4477 or www.thehipp.org
The matriarch Sylvia constantly clashes with her family to accept, love and worship Jesus Christ as much as she does. Arthur, the father, is going through an internal struggle after slipping into a depressed state. Rachel, their unruly, potty-mouthed teenage daughter, hates the world and lashes out at a mother whose life is obsessively devoted to Jesus and preparing for the rapture, and a father who simply has given up on life.
They are all waiting to be saved by something or someone.
Sylvia keeps Jesus by her side — literally. Daughter Rachel talks to her hallucination of renowned British physicist and philosopher Stephen Hawking. And Arthur's savior seems to be a socially-awkward, optimistic nerd named Nelson who always wears an Elvis Presley costume and is in love with Rachel.
Welcome to “End Days,” the Hippodrome State Theatre's new production that opens Friday and runs through Jan. 30. It's a quirky little play that delivers a big message about family, hope and life. The characters are odd but unforgettable, and the script is filled with humorous and heart-warming moments.
The 2008 critically-acclaimed play by Deborah Zoe Laufer is also peppered with sensitive points such as religion and the backdrop of the story. The timing is just a few years after the Sept. 11 terrorists attacks (Arthur escaped from one of the towers). Also, actor Mark Woollett plays the role of Jesus and impersonates Hawking, complete with motorized wheelchair and electronic synthesizer “voice.”
Filipe Valle Costa said his teenaged character Nelson, who he plays with somewhat choppy, voice inflections, is as intelligent as he is naive.
“It has that contrast between that extreme optimism with the tragedy of the towers and the tragedy of the war and the end of days so I think it really is a privilege to be that voice of optimism in all of this,” says Costa, who is currently earning a master's degree in acting at the University of Florida. “It's a script that is very relevant. I think that theater should speak to today, and I think this speaks to every single thing that matters today.”
David Sitler, who plays Arthur, said it was a challenge trying “to find the life in the depression” of his character.
“I've never done a play like this. I'm really interested to see how an audience will take to it,” says Sitler, who has appeared in past Hipp shows as well as on Broadway, in national-theatrical tours, TV dramas and soaps. “It's a pretty realistic script, but it's more the mix of characters that makes it so unique. I think the beauty of her script is that there is the comedy, but there's a lot of heart in it.”
Jennifer Smith dyed her hair dark black, cut her bangs and wore heavy, dark makeup to become the goth-girl Rachel. She loves that the play is made up of “misfits and weirdos” and in the end it's just a story about acceptance.
“I like Rachel because she's such a huge character journey,” Smith says. “She starts off so cold and full of resentment and she's bitter towards her parents because she feels abandoned by them ... and then she meets this kid who's another misfit and he loosens her up,” says Smith, who's also set to play the lead role in “Romeo and Juliet” at UF in April and on the production's international tour to Greece this summer. “It's this huge transformation that happens, so for me it was really cool finding those moments in the play where the ice starts to break, when she starts to soften up.”
In her impassioned and desperate turn as the Jewish-turned-Christianity mother, Morsey emerges as an unexpected star of the play. She said she hopes audiences can look past the religious undertones and see the play's true message.
“I think I'd like (the) audience to just think about what's the really important part of whatever their own religious journey is if they have one,” she says. “I think the play has such a great message at the heart of it, which really is just the same for every organized religion on earth, which is treat each other nice here and enjoy the afterlife after. I think for every organized religion, love one another is the main thing.”
“End Days” has lots of ideas, beliefs, fears and hopes, but Woollett says overall the play is just about people and the “human connection.”
Director Lauren Caldwell agrees.
She says the play does a good job of illustrating that regardless of what we look like or whatever our beliefs, we all have basic needs: food, health, family, friends and each other. “We want to sort of a way find the best in each other and the goodness in the world and we're all sort of heading to the same place, it's just we have a different way of getting there,” Caldwell says.
Contact Lashonda Stinson Curry at 374-5038 or firstname.lastname@example.org.