The End of Civilization
The End of Civilization, George F. Walker's nihilistic vision of society gone awry, had its Los Angeles premiere at the Skypilot Theatre Company's Sidewalk Studio Theatre in Toluca Lake on October 17. This one-act play is one of a series of six called Suburban Motel. All the plays take place in a motel room, simplifying sets, lighting and cost. Walker speaks to our worst fears during a year of job and home losses by framing a very dark comedy which has few moments in which to smile.
Henry (an agitated Eric Curtis Johnson), a hopeless victim of corporate downsizing, is being detained in his motel room by two homicide policemen, Donny (Bob Rusch) and Max (Phillipe Simon). Henry and his wife, Lily (Jaime Andrews) have come to this motel in Lily's hometown to concentrate on finding work. We see, in a series of non-chronological scenes, that Henry is concerned that Lily has been missing for two days while he remains in a near-hysterical state at being out of work for many months.
Donny was a high school classmate of Lily's and seems to want to engage her in a personal relationship by playing the macho cop. As the play progresses, we learn that three job applicants have been murdered in the past few days at the same locations where Henry had looked for work and he is being treated as a suspect. In a series of scenes that travel back and forth in time, we learn of Henry's frustration and Lily's desperate attempt to earn some money because her home is about to be foreclosed. She is introduced to prostitution by Sandy (a properly bored Gemma Massot), who lives at the motel.
Max becomes increasingly alarmed at Donny's actions and seems to be the only sanely functioning character in the play as he tries to calm and redirect him to act properly in this pastiche of desperation, mis-communication and out-of-control (verging on psychotic) behavior. Their conversations seem beside the point and have little to do with the action.
These competent actors are impeded by James Sharpe's direction which takes each character's desperation to the limit in this over-wrought vehicle. Walker, an award-winning Canadian playwright, wrote this play in 1999 when corporate cutbacks were just becoming an issue. This was not one of his better efforts nor one of Skypilot's who has mounted some excellent productions in past seasons.
Runs October 17 through November 29, 2009 Saturdays at 8 pm and Sunday at 7 pm.
Sidewalk Studio Theatre, 4150 Riverside Dr., Toluca Lake, CA 91505
Tickets are $10 pre-sale, $15 at the door. To purchase tickets, go to www.SkyPilotTheatre.com or call 800-838-3006