What happens when you know you’re about to die? In the world of “Doomsday Kiss,” a new work playing until May 10 at the Bootleg theatre, it’s time to bring the drinks to the party, get the show started, and well, just make love.
REPO division’s production of the collaborative work written by Eva Anderson, Clay Hazelwood, Wesley Walker, and Sharon Yablon takes place in an indeterminate future in which survivors of apocalypse attempt to find meaning for their lack of real existence.
For one pair of newlyweds on a cruise ship, impending doom means an excuse to get liquored up, because gaining weight through beer drinking no longer matters when they get back to land, which will happen when they sink with their ship. For another pair of newlyweds, it’s a time to figure out each other. Unfortunately for the new wife, she finds out that her husband is “the worst person (she has) ever met.” It also means it’s time to find a new love partner between now and the time she dies.
Babar Peerzada gives an understated but credible performance as the cruise ship’s bartender, a hunky Nebraskan heartthrob often mistakened for a foreign citizen. Jessica Hanna and Michael Dunn, however, stand out as a couple of chubby, middle aged stereotypes of marriage who flirt around with each other constantly physically and verbally, prompting the viewer to immediately exclaim “yuck.” They seem to epitomize the “kiss” in “Doomsday Kiss.”
The situation at an office is a bit more desperate. Here, a sexual revolution may be going on. For example, one woman, who is unable to have orgasms because she is past fourty, gets a–shall we say–strategic massage from a holistic medicine type who wears a bandana and a Native American outfit. Meanwhile, a middle aged office worker tiles calendars on the floor and complains about his sex life–well, at least he doesn’t have to worry about that anymore, since his wife is now presumably dead.
Tina Van Berckelaer plays the woman, who hobbles around on one good leg, complaining about love in general. She is overshadowed a bit by Mickey Swenson, the artistic therapist turned floor sweeper who keeps talking about the lesbians he saw upstairs. He didn’t think they’d still exist after the catastrophe. His geeky but down-to-earth personality makes him identifiable as the sixties hippies type turned postmodern poet.
“Doomsday Kiss” is a collaborative effort amongst four playwrights, and some times, the collaboration is not supposed to be smooth. Each of the four plays deals with a sort of post-apocalyptic transformation, but the themes of the plays don’t always relate. In particular, the section on “The Class Room” seems out of place, as it deals with child molestation more than with love. The play-within-a-play “Who Is Randall Maxit?” is separated into four parts and interweaved within “Doomsday Kiss,” serving as a common point of reference, but it is difficult to see how the Maxit section relates to, for example, “Fun Days At Sea.”
“Doomsday Kiss” is also a multidisciplinary effort. The set consists of projections onto a block-like structure, as well as a TV that fills in the premise of the play as post-biological-chemical-catastrophe. The Bootleg theatre also has an exhibition of postmodern art in the lobby that includes Rigo Maldonado’s “Hope, 4_”x6_”x1_”,” a sculpture of two humans attached to each other by a branch that goes through the navels. The most remarkable art work on display may be Vincent Villafranca’s “Goggles Hiding Tears,” which suggests that even androids are afraid of nuclear catastrophe.
If there’s one constant amongst the play’s many diverse, unmeshed elements is the performance of Gray Palmer as Randall Maxit. Maxit, a scientist who is supposed to have been responsible for the world’s great disaster, makes muffins that contaminates a random proportion of the population. Although not terrified, the audience to shocked to find out that those muffins out in the lobby may have come from the same stock. Palmer takes his role as deranged scientist very seriously in the work, telling the audience to hurry to his brand of future.
One of the most effective scenes in “Doomsday Kiss” involves Maxit being interviewed by Mindy and Wendy in a sham show that deals with “how the cookie crumbles.” After much prodding, Maxit admits to whatever crimes he has committed, and the conversation is recorded by telephone. Who is really guilty of this ridiculous transformation of the world from sanity to madness? Maxit thinks it’s his fault, but perhaps the blame goes science. “Doomsday Kiss,” however, doesn’t really care. It just wants to have fun.