A cry for help comes from the side of the stage followed by a loud crash which wakes the man sleeping on the table. It becomes clear that this was not the first time he has not helped his wife. In fact, it would seem that he has been in that same chair in the same disheveled pajamas for three weeks. The Stein family was in crisis. But then the quirky, lovable Nelson Steinberg moved in next door.
The Independent Actors Theatre presented End Days Friday November 5th at The Blue Fugue in downtown Columbia. End Days is a dark comedy about a family who have lost connection with each other and the eccentric neighbor who brings them back together. A crowded bar is not the first place you think to go see theatre but the unique location only highlighted the originality of the script. The close proximity between actors and the audience along with the extremely casual setting allowed the audience to get comfortable as though they were in the family’s home. The simple set of a dining room table served as the centerpiece of the show. While the show took place in many different places, having a consistent, basic set allowed the focus to be on the family dynamic.
The characters in End Days could be very easily played as one dimensional stereotypes. Rachel Stein (Ella Folkerts) being the teenage goth rebel, Sylvia Stein (DeeDee Folkerts) being a recruiting Christian, Arthur Stein (Chris Bowling) being the cracked up depressed father, and Nelson Steinberg (Rob Glauz) being the crazy creepy kid next door. However, the actors in this productions played these characters with heart and individuality.
The most memorable performance was given by Rob Glauz. Nelson is a teenager who is bullied for wearing an Elvis costume everyday. He comes into the Stein family’s life after falling in love with Rachel from afar and following her home. The character of Nelson could easily come off as cheesy. However, Glauz’s comedic timing was completely endearing. He played every moment of awkward word-vomit with precise delivery and meaning every word of what he was saying, no matter how ridiculous it was. Glauz made a very uneasy and strange character extremely lovable and relatable.
The crisis this family is in the midst of is most evident in the drastic personalities of the parents. Both parents are disconnected from each other and their daughter. Chris Bowling who played Arthur brought a heavy exhaustion to the first part of the show. However, once Arthur began to see hope in life, Bowling began to lighten up everything from his voice to his walk. By the end of the play, determination was behind every step and gleaming in his eyes. DeeDee Folkerts who played Sylvia Stein almost had the opposite transition. Sylvia was disconnected from her family through her total involvement in her new found religion. She isolated herself in her certainty. To reflect that, Folkerts had light quick paced motions and line delivery. It was almost as if she was afraid to slow down because she would have to face the reality of the state of her family. Once she looses grip with her faith, she comes back to her family.
End Days is about staying connected to your family and the authenticity of the actors in playing stereotypical characters made the message of the play relatable. It is extremely easy to loose those connections in the wake of hard times. Sometimes it takes an outsider to make families remember how much they need each other.
Script by Deborah Zoe Laufer; Presented by Independent Actors Theatre; Directed by Emily Rollie; Stage Manager Kate Carter; Costume Designs by Jolene Metzen; Light Board Operations by Hannah Spratt; Featuring Rob Glauz (Nelson Steinberg), Chris Bowling (Arthur Stein), DeeDee Folkerts (Sylvia Stein), Ella Folkerts (Rachel Stein), and Rory O’Carroll (Jesus/Stephen Hawking)