The End Is Near.. and Dramatically Hilarious
Cheryl Koski as Rachel Stein and Chris Raddatz as Nelson in Paper Lantern Theatre Company’s End Days. (photo courtesy of James Freetly)
We all remember the eye-rolling, lip-smacking years of our teenage adolescence. Our parents were painfully annoying; our peers were hypocritically judgmental; our single goal was to make it out of high school. But at least we didn’t have to worry about the Apocalypse.
Such is the case for 16-year-old Rachel Stein (played by Cheryl Koski) in Paper Lantern Theatre Company’s End Days, a dark satire laced with laughs that asks, “If the rapture was this Wednesday, which of your loved ones would truly be saved?” “The play has been described as ‘rapturously funny,’ and I can’t disagree,” says Director Jim Wren, “but at its core it’s very serious. These people are all struggling to find meaning and some kind of sense to carry on.
“I’m really taken by the optimism in this play. Odd, I know, that a play about the Apocalypse would prompt that response from me, but as wacky as this play is, you’re left with an idea of the importance of family, friends and forgiveness.”
Written by award-winning playwright Deborah Zoe Laufer, the satirical comedy follows Rachel, a nihilist goth, and her family as they struggle to cope with the world and the idea of death since 9-11.
Her father (Lee Spencer) has been driven into a deep depression and has yet to change out of his pajamas. Her mother (Amy da Luz), on the other hand, has found refuge in Christianity, which causes her to be a bit of an eccentric Jesus freak. Then there’s the new neighbor Nelson (Chris Raddatz), a positive, 16-year-old Elvis impersonator who is in love with Rachel and who Raddatz says, “drives these people back to some sense of what it is like to live again.”
“Each member of the family is a very well-developed and multidimensional character,” says actor Amy da Luz, “and they each portray the various ways people handle grief, fear and loneliness. And thanks to Deborah Zoe Laufer, we can laugh at them out loud while they do this without feeling guilty.”
Actor Chris Raddatz adds, “It is incredibly hilarious to watch them converge and see the constant humor that stems from them making attempts to find a common language.”
Da Luz says to expect a lot of laughter and a little of the absurd.
“I mean, Jesus [played by Matt Palmer] does follow me around stage after all, and Stephen Hawking [Matt Palmer] visits my daughter at Starbucks.”
As for the set design, Wren says the UpStage Cabaret is wonderfully intimate and the perfect space for the show.
“I wouldn’t want to give too much away, so suffice it to say that the design team has created an amazing world.”
End Days marks Paper Lantern Theatre Company’s second anniversary. The burgeoning production company was created by seven local theater artists looking for a place to create, collaborate and take risks.
Da Luz, co-founder, says that Paper Lantern Theatre Company is a dream come true. It came to her about three years ago when she was starving for a creative outlet and wanted to see some new, relevant work being done onstage in her community of Winston-Salem.
“The recession was closing theatres everywhere and keeping the ones that were still alive wary of trying new works because they had to sell tickets,” da Luz says. “I met Star, Miriam, Miranda and Sheila in an acting collaborative that I taught. Beth and I had become friends at Triad Stage where we had acted together. I called them all up and basically just said, ‘Let’s put on a play.’” Taking it slowly, one production at a time, the company continues to grow. To date they have collaborated with more than 40 theatre artists from around the region.
“While managing full-time jobs and acting careers we’ve managed to keep Paper Lantern Theatre Company a small but vibrant light in the community,” da Luz says. “We have a small following now that is anxious to see what we’ll do next, and we’re proud of that.
“We’re satisfying our own creative needs, collaborating with other artists and giving the community a chance to see some theatre that they would not otherwise get to see, which is so important for the cultural life of the community and for the life of theatre itself.”
End Days plays at Triad Stage’s UpStage Cabaret, 232 S. Elm St., Greensboro, Jan. 20-23; Jan. 25-29. Tickets are $15-$18. For tickets or more Information call 336.272.0160 or visit paperlanterntheatre.com