TO BE IT OR NOT TO BE IT? Lynn Swanson and Julian Trilling.
The end of the world is coming. The comet is scheduled to hit at 2 am during a record summer heat spell, as if we weren’t already cranky enough. Well, at least strangers and ordinarily monosyllabic partners have a fallback subject if they run out of conversation.
That’s the premise for Epic Theatre Company’s darkly charming This Might Not Be It, subtitled “A Dialogue Show,” written and directed by Kevin Broccoli (at the Artists’ Exchange through July 27).
The “Might Not” qualification is in place because there’s a 20 percent chance that the comet won’t hit. Actually, the 13 couples in these brief playlets don’t tend to be optimistic types, so the 80 percent likelihood of doom and destruction is more to the point.
There are unmaskings, quiet realizations, and character revelations. These conversations are like reluctant suicide notes. A mother and daughter take shelter in the basement with 72 boxes of Ritz crackers; two women make plans to knock on Russell Crowe’s Malibu door and offer him his choice of them.
There are a few references to the obvious recourse of people getting blind drunk in these last hours, but the implication is that that’s for the weak. This baker’s dozen of encounters worthy of our attention is a survey of people with gumption and imagination. People are fleeing the city, but Casey Wright’s character had seeing her favorite band on her bucket list so she is there for their concert, just in case they show up. Some people are conscientious to the last — since Emily Lonardo knows that the concert is canceled, she shows up because she thought someone should make an announcement.
Little things can mean a lot in such a circumstance. Even inconsequential t’s are satisfying to cross and i’s a pleasure to dot. Corey Lynn Arruda and Nick Viau are high school students, and it was important for him to buy a belt so his pants would stop annoyingly drooping.
The first piece sets the emotionally fraught circumstance without getting sentimental about it. Betsy Rinaldi is a social worker at a hospital, there to speak to people visiting patients and tell them they can go home, giving them permission to think of themselves. The hospital workers will soon be leaving to be with their families. David DeAlmo plays a man there to be with his mother, and the calming compassion of the young woman gradually shifts him from sarcasm to empathy.
Lest we start preparing for a crying jag, that one is followed by a guy in his undershorts sitting in an apartment when its owner enters, brandishing a red high-heeled shoe like a gun. Leann Heath asks if he’s a looter, and Ian Sanphy explains that he lived there a couple of years before with a now-ex-girlfriend. He has fond memories of the place. She had gone to see her ex-boyfriend but found him en flagrante with a lover, a guy, “making up for years of repressed sexuality.” That’s another likely scenario: people rushing about for do-overs. Reconnecting or making tardy first connections is bound to be an apocalypse motif.