Apocalypse how?

Easing into The End of the World
By BILL RODRIGUEZ  |  July 25, 2006

HORN SECTION: The Four Norsemen sing out.
What are you complaining about? It’s not the end of the world.

Mommies all over the world are taught that one in the instructional manual that comes with each kid, and Elemental Theatre is reinforcing the message. Outbursts! 3: The End of the World Cabaret (through July 30) is their third summer production, using music and songs as well as dramatics, both satirical and serious, to pump up the Existential volume.
More than a dozen skits and bits of stopgap succor over potential global disasters we face, from avian flu to nuclear annihilation. The evening was written and conceived by Alexander Platt and David Rabinow, and directed by Platt, with original lyrics and music by Rabinow and Paul Scharf.

The evening’s effort is to calm our anxieties. And warn us. The opening skit, Rapture, doesn’t envision our being wafted aloft in ego-affirming selection but suggests a more arbitrary possibility. What if an aspiring playwright (Sara Betnel) picked us (Rabinow, D’Arcy Dersham, and Jared Hartley) and we woke to find ourselves in our birthday suits (flesh-colored underwear and discreet black bars, Hartley’s charmingly vertical) in a play of her uncertain devising? Would that really be any less random than our prior lives?

Those who think that death and destruction have no lighter side should be forewarned — this show can get pretty silly. Were Jean Paul Sartre around and in the audience, he’d get very upset. The routine about avian flu, an explanation about pandemics being Mother Nature’s way of showing us who’s boss, is presented by a guy (Rabinow) dressed as a chicken. Early on we are reminded that federal grants for the arts are hard to come by. And even though no homosexuals will be married in the course of the production, it is announced, they had to resort to funding from a Viking promotional organization. Music is thereby provided by the Four Norsemen, a helmet-horned Hartley, Scharf, Rabinow, and Andy White.

Disasters or not, we can take comfort in simple human contact, more than one routine points out. Rabinow tells of feeling disconnected in conversation among strangers in a strange city (Chicago), drawing a picture of his epiphany that we are all pointillistic dots in a vast, cosmic group portrait. In the spirit of cabaret-era Berlin, Elizabeth Gotauco steps out in red satin and elbow-length black gloves and, in lovely singing voice, delivers the socko song “Apocalypse Wow!,” backed up by the company and some snappy choreography.

In Last Night, Gotauco, Tray Gearing, and Andrew Morissette do their best to buck up each other’s spirits before their expected vaporization in a few hours. The guy, being a guy, is a little disappointed that there isn’t the orgy he envisioned, but that passes. Gearing describes the early Atari video game Missile Command, in which players couldn’t win but only delay an inevitable rain of death from the sky. The payoff is Gotauco saying that her favorite Stevie Wonder song always sounded to her like it was a conversation at the end of the world, and they end up singing, “I just called to say I love you . . . .”

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