End of the Road offers a glimpse at the apocalypse

By MICHAEL POWELL
On November 18, 2012

  • Last Saturday, the Market Arcade Film and Arts Center hosted John Elston's play End of the Road, which showcases the various scenarios theorists believe will cause the end of the world on Dec. 21. Xiaohang Ji /// The Spectrum

A blizzard of biblical proportions, a pack of man-eating jaguars and a horrifying zombie hoard- which do you think will bring the end?

These are the questions asked in Jon Elston's new play, End of the Road. The playwright was performed by Road Less Traveled Productions and directed by co-founder Scott Behrend.

Performed in the production's home in the Market Arcade Film and Arts Center last Saturday night, the play examines and dissects the fate of eight characters stuck in a New York thruway rest stop as the world draws to a close on Friday, Dec. 21, 2012.

Elston uses several real world theories for how the world will end: from the Mayan calendar and its civilization and culture, Indian guru Kalki Bhagavan's message of human decline in the year 2012, the Bible's revelations and other ideas that map doom and gloom. These Armageddon theories are weaved with literary expertise into the plot of the play.

Characters shout and pray to Xibalba, the Mayan underworld, and others see the words of God in a random set of looping numbers. During a question and answer session after the performance, Elston was asked how thoroughly he stuck to the lore and mythology of the Mayan culture.

"The end of the world, whether it's coming in a month or not, is purely speculative," Elston said. "We took tons of liberties for fun."

This lack ofattention to exact details gives the play some of its charm. The play deals with several very interesting and heavy issues such as religion's place in times of disaster, selfishness, heroism and how the everyday person would react during chaos. However, it always manages to cut the deep emotion and atmosphere of what's going on with touches and flashes of humor, keeping a balance between a light and dark tone.

The setting for the play is confined to the dining area of Hardees in a thruway stop. A group is stranded because a freak snowstorm has rendered the roads unnavigable. Some people in the Hardees are there to save themselves from the cold and the avalanche of snow that has fallen from the sky, while others are there just to pick up their daughter from work. As the play progresses they all realize the danger they are in and have to come to grips with reality in their own way.

The strong performances from actors David Mitchell, Sara Kow Falcone, Kay Kerimian, Barry Williams, Christina Rausa, Bob Grabowski, Xavier Harris and Monish Bhattacharyya help ground the apocalyptic play in reality.

According to actor Barry Williams, who played Zeb Sveglio, a stockbroker who tries everything to survive the end of the world with his fiancé, the characters were one of the most important pieces to the play's success.

"As much of this play is about the Mayan apocalypse, it is really a character driven piece," Williams said. "I think we all did a lot in developing our own characters. We all took great pride in developing and building our characters."

Due to an excellent performance by the actors, the show did not topple over the thin edge of losing the viewer. This was a feat considering the hectic, chaotic and at times confusing layout of zombies with jungle brush protruding from snow.These moments were entertaining, and reminiscent of something out of an Evil Dead film.

None of this frazzled the audience; they could feel the conviction onstage despite the technical difficulties.

"You could just see it from the actor's expression," said Burhan Saiyed, second-year graduate student. "It was a more involved performance. Compared to the regional plays back home, over here they were performing with passion."

Through the efforts of Sarah Tanbakuchi, second-year graduate student and member of the outreach committee for Road Less Traveled, the show had a great attendance from UB students to experience the dynamic, apocalyptic play that night.

"I'm really passionate of the theater and the kind of work [the Road Less Traveled Productions] does. They support a lot of Buffalo playwrights," Tanbakuchi said. "I think they bring a lot of innovative and unique theatre. So, I want to bring in as many students as possible."

End of the Roadplays through Dec. 2 at the Market Arcade Film and Arts Center in downtown Buffalo.

 

Email: arts@ubspectrum.com


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