Produced by: The Pear Theatre
Directed by: Michael Champlin
Featuring: Tasi Alabastro, Michelle Skinner, Samantha Ricci, Michael Weiland, Keith Larson, Ivette Deltoro, Tyler Pardini, Tonya Duncan, Filip Hofman, Gwendolyn Wagner, Michael Champlin
Running time: 120 minutes, one intermission
When: January 25 - February 17, 2019
Where: The Pear Theatre, 1110 La Avenida Street, Mountain View
Tickets: $28-$35. Visit https://www.thepear.org/boxoffice/ or call 650-254-1148.
at 'The End of the World'
A shouting modern prophet has arisen who says half the world’s population will disappear. And it does.
The next day, the prophet is shouting again, saying the rest of the world is going to end at midnight.
Having seen the man’s first prophecy come true, everybody assumes the second prophecy will come true as well. So, when “Spending the End of the World on OK Cupid” starts, we meet a group of mostly millennials who are as lost in the face of doom as they were in the face of life.
And some of them haltingly try to connect on OK Cupid, an online dating site.
Caitlyn, who lost her family in yesterday’s “Vanishing,” is forlorn and aimless, and about to take pills to kill herself when she gets the notice that someone wants to talk with her on the dating site. It is Ben, who also lost people. They chat, and he convinces her to meet in person, to help each other fulfill their bucket lists.
A problem: Caitlyn has no idea what she wants to do, so agrees to help Ben with his list until something occurs to her.
Caitlyn and Ben are the closest thing to a solid core to be found in this play by Jeffrey Lo, which was commissioned by the Ohlone College Theatre and Dance Department, where it debuted in 2016.
Lo is maybe the hardest working guy in the Bay Area theater business, and pushes himself hard pretty much 24 hours a day. He is an excellent director (his staging of “Eurydice” at Palo Alto Players was brilliant) and he is now the casting director at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, which makes him one of the most powerful people in Bay Area theater.
But this play is maybe a bridge too far. It has an intriguing premise, but it kind of rattles along, with too many loose parts, and then, finally, an ending that defeats one of his key story lines.
It does serve a purpose, perhaps, in that it warns people that they should find some meaning in their lives. They all should live as if they only have 12 hours to live.
Director Michael Champlin has put together a very good cast, including bushy-haired Tasi Alabastro, who is full of bounce and striving as Ben. He really wants to get some things done — get a tattoo, eat a 10-level hamburger, and help someone — and sets out to do those things, with Caitlyn’s help. Alabastro is really quite good, and makes Ben empathetic, desperate, and interesting.
Michelle Skinner, with silky, beautiful auburn hair, is the lonely poet Caitlyn who sets out to help Ben. She is lost in this world, afraid of what she really wants to do — until Ben finally helps her find that one thing, and accomplish it. Caitlyn is not really an interesting character, but she is emblematic of a generation that has no clue.
Samantha Ricci is the challenging and cynical WarriorsGirl30, who starts chatting online with MsChanandlerBong (he had trouble with the OK Cupid naming convention). MsChanandlerBong is played by Michael Weiland as a nice guy who just needs someone to chat with, and works hard to get WarriorsGirl30 (a sports fan) to meet with him in person. She is very suspicious.
Among things he tells her is that he wishes his mother was still around to cook one of his favorite dishes, which had oxtails and tripe and was orange. He was describing kare kare, an absolutely delicious food that also includes peanut butter, that Lo would be familiar with, because he is of Filipino heritage.
Gwendolyne Wagner is very good as a mother who is desperately unhappy because her daughter vanished. She is the person Ben helps, although not much. Director Champlin takes an uncredited role as Lou, maker of the legendary 10-level hamburger. Always a good actor, Champlin is bright and funny in this role. Keith Larson is the obnoxious prophet, Alfred Winters, who keeps shouting that he warned everybody, but nobody paid any attention. Why he shouts that is a mystery, since everybody is paying plenty of attention to him.
Tonya Duncan, who was wonderful in "Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley" in 2017, is challenging and snippy as Rina, for reasons unexplained. Other fine performances were turned in by Ivette Deltoro as TV host Sage Cruz, Filip Hofman as Lou’s son, Lou, and Tyler Pardini as Leslie. Most also play various ensemble parts.
Paulino Deleal’s set is wooden platforms and stairs, and works just fine, for the most part. It’s appealing in some Tinker Toy way. The play sometimes feels too scattered on that big set, though.
Champlin does a fun thing at intermission: He lets audience members come down and pose for photos with the 10-layer hamburger. Cuteness.