There are a plethora of End of the World movies, television shows and now even off-off Broadway productions. This can be evidenced in a special insert in the program of The Apocalypse of John to “collect items from all five of the end of the world shows in Fringe” (Snow White: Zombie Apocalypse, Below, The End of Days, May 21st – Judgement Day, The Apocalypse of John, and they even forgot …And Then She Die At the End! where our hero Nicholas Sparks is constantly striving to fight against the world’s destruction by making people cry). But none of these shows (nor any I can think of off the top of my head) has dealt with the various possibilities of Apocalypse so thoroughly or entertainingly as the Apocalypse of John (though possibly the Evil Dead movies come close in terms of hilarity).
But with so many ways for the world to end, people have gotten a bit blasé about it all. The Apocalypse of John begins with a group of friends who have gotten together on the night that “all the experts” are saying will likely be the end of the world. One of them is even an aspiring television reporter, Maggie (Erin Salm), getting ready to tape people’s reactions as a human interest story, hopefully successfully because this is her first big break. And if anything is going to be possibly, perhaps maybe sorta happening in 15 minutes, she’ll be on the scene!
Her boyfriend John (Michael Mraz) backed by The Upstairs House Band (Ari Kessler on piano, Will Kitchin on drums, and Andrew Hollis on guitar) welcomes the audience and cast to sing along to a rousing tavern song of “Kiss My Ass Good Bye”. The whole gang is there to commemorate the likely non-event of another badly called end of the world: Gary the bartender (Jacob Callie Moore) with his gritty barroom wisdom, John with his goofy charm, Maggie with her camera, Maude the waitress (Kacie Laforest) with her angelic sweetness, and Chris D’Amato playing Stinky Dan … well he’s just rude and stinky, but a long-time part of the band of regulars anyway.
According to bartender Gary in his televised interview (which seems to represent the consensus of the bar as a whole) if the End is going to happen it will probably be a mixtures of the following classic scenarios:
- Natural Disaster
- Nuclear War (“We call it the old fashioned”)
- The Devil and other supernatural causes
- Annihilation of all life by a deadly virus
With the seconds clicking down, John (our hero who is both a germophobe as well as an advertising guy), a little wasted out of his mind and fearing the end, asks his long time girlfriend Maggie to marry him at the worst possible time — when she’s on the air for the first time! She immediately says no to him, crying on national television as she is signing off the air, then fleeing the bar in even bigger sobs.
Soon John falls into a fitful sleep, set upon by prophetic dreams of Apocalyptic Spectors riding little horsies warning that the end is nigh. Terrified out of his mind he awakes in the bar to find himself late for his yearly review to be conducted by the charismatic, yet megalomaniacal trickster Damien Blackstock, head of one of the mos successful ad agencies on the planet.
Damien sets John down, in a friendly yet somewhat creepy way and explains he really needs John to “wow him” by taking an account that is failing terribly (Gordon’s Flashlights) and bringing some really “outside the box thinking” to make it wildly successful, in one week’s time. From there John is quickly swept along to meet his new team. There’s the desperate-to-succeed junior project manager assistant Charlene (played by Kymm Walker) and slacker Creative “Director” Robert (Zach Sciranka) who seems to always have glassy look in his eye (from being fixated on his smartphone). They meet the “clients from hell” – who just happen to look a lot like they’re … Aliens! But the weird thing is it seems like he’s the only one feeling uncomfortable about working for clients who would like to enslave/eat the human race.
To sum up the various, hilarious charades and indirect explanations (and some direct explanations from Stinky Dan who turns out to be Satan himself), this is what the deal is:
The Apocalyptic things are only really happening to John for now.
- Other people will see more and be more effected if they believe John or they are in some sort of altered state of consciousness.
- Each day will feature a different apocalypse (ie zombies, natural disasters, aliens, etc.) until the big finale at the End.
- If John doesn’t manage to convince everybody in the entire world that Armageddon is at hand by the end of the week, it becomes real for everyone and goodbye cruel world.
- It’s all Gary’s fault because he’s secretly been in love with Maggie and sold his soul to Stinky Dan in order to get rid of John, never reading the small print that said he could use Armageddon to do it.
We then see John and the gang fighting against the end of the world in every way including using product samples from John’s old client Steel Shotguns (“They practically sell themselves.”), and using the full global mass marketing of an apocalypse (“This Time It’s Real”) for the sake of selling Gordon’s flashlights. Of course there’s also the good old fashioned hand to hand in the final confrontation with Satan … I mean Stinky Dan.
This show is great for several different reasons. The pacing moves an awful lot of plot quickly in an hour and half. The great script created collaboratively by the Serious Theatre Collective really hangs together. Both the expert lighting (Benjamin Danielowski) and sound (Nathaniel Chambers) can almost be counted as characters in and of themselves. Norman and Ursala Stuby provide not quite menacing, yet convincing costumes and masks for the apocalypse, and the entire cast gels with great chemistry throughout the entirety of this production as a whole which is no doubt a credit to expert direction by Lizz Leiser.
Definitely recommend you try to get your tickets now, before the end of the festival … or the end of the world!
The Apocalypse of John
Serious Theatre Collective
Writer: Serious Theatre Collective
Director: Lizz Leiser
John Darrian is charged with saving the world from aliens, super-viruses, earthquakes, and Satan himself in a comedy about the tragic end of all life on Earth. An absurd look at coming to terms with your worst fears. And zombies.
1h 35m Local Brooklyn, New York
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VENUE #10: The Players Theatre
Sat 11 @ 5 Tue 14 @ 9:30 Fri 17 @ 9:30 Sun 19 @ 12 Tue 21 @ 4:30