Short Review: DEAD END

by Lynn on October 7, 2016

in The Passionate Playgoer


At the Factory Studio Theatre, Toronto, Ont.

Written by Jonny Sun
Directed by Michael Orlando
Lighting by Melissa Joakim
Sound by Jason O’Brien
Special Effects Design by Megan Fraser
Costumes by Roselie Williamson
Cast: Ceridwen Kingstone
Christian Smith
Chris Wilson

And off-the-wall comedy of seriousness in a way echoing the ‘nothing happens’ situations in a Seinfeld sketch, but done with tremendous style.

We are in some kind of apocalyptic time where zombies lurch everywhere. Those not dead try to escape them.

When the lights go down and the theatre is in darkness, a woman’s voice gives us an overlong speech telling us we are in a certain deserted high-school; that there was a catastrophe at another middle school with almost the same name as this high school
The speech goes on for so long and tries so hard to be funny and misses as far as I am concerned, that I think playwright Jonny Sun is being prophetic when he calls the play Dead End. My advice—cut that speech. Have the program tell us where we are. But then the play proper starts and matters settle into a wild, loopy, sometimes metaphysical examination of living, being a zombie, friendship, inclusion, exclusion and moving on.

Two nameless men run breathlessly into a dark room in the deserted school. They only have flashlights for illumination until they find the light switch. When they do find the switch to light the room, they also see a bloody, twitching, gasping zombie in their midst. The zombie seems harmless to me (of course I’m safely far away in the audience) in that its movements are so erratic I don’t see what harm it could do to the guys. One of the guys says he wouldn’t touch it because it would be like touching a pigeon, then he grimaces. I think we know what he means.
The two men converse very seriously about their situation and how they will cope; what do they do about escape; they talk about their last meal; one has a gun with one bullet in it and wants to save it in case he will need it for himself.

All through this back and forth banter I’m wondering where the story is. Is there a story? Is this play about something? I think it’s a perfect mirror of a Seinfeld sketch about nothing. There is philosophy that seems to make sense—what is life? What is death? Interestingly the definition of a zombie is not expressed, perhaps because it’s not needed. But around all this philosophy there is no solid center of a story and I think that’s deliberate.

There are just two desperate characters who have found sanctuary, they think, and that they have to share it with a twitching zombie. Christian Smith and Chris Wilson are the two men. These actors are also improv comedians and it shows. They are serious, beautifully in tune bouncing dialogue off each other with ease and perfect timing. As the zombie, Ceridwen Kingstone is a marvel of physical business, mouth agape, gasping, lurching, almost unbalanced and perfectly balanced. It’s an interesting note that no gender is given to the zombie by the two men when they reference ‘it’. It is directed with skill and imagination by Michael Orlando.

Except for that unnecessary set up of where we are Jonny Sun has an intriguing facility with language, idiosyncratic character, off situations and a command of what is funny.

The place is packed with millennials. They get this kind of loopy humour. I recommend Dead End for them.

Presented by Theatre Lab and Factory Theatre.

Opened: Oct. 6, 2016.
Closes: Oct. 23, 2016.
Cast: 3; 2 men, 1 woman.
Running Time: 61 minutes.

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