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Sunday, January 1, 2012

Theatre Review: Some Things You Need to Know Before the World Ends



SOME THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE THE WORLD ENDS (A FINAL EVENING WITH THE ILLUMINATI)

By Larry Larson and Levi Lee
Directed by Joey Arena

Reviewed by Craig Nolan Highley

Entire contents are copyright © 2011, Craig Nolan Highley. All rights reserved.

If your only knowledge of the fabled and sinister Illuminati comes from Angels and Demons, then you owe it to yourself to check out this play, written over a decade before Dan Brown’s novel made the mysterious organization popular.
Full of biting religious satire and dark humor, the Alley Theater’s latest production overcame a few tech issues, an actor in line trouble, some pacing issues, and an opening night almost completely devoid of an audience to deliver an entertaining and thought-provoking evening of theatre.

The play, which premiered in 1981 at the Nexus Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia, and later at the Humana Festival at Actors Theatre in 1986, follows Reverend Eddie (Paul Curry), a protestant minister attempting to deliver his final sermon in the aftermath of an unspecified apocalyptic event. At his side is his ever-faithful (and much abused) assistant, the hunchbacked Brother Lawrence (J.P. Lebangood).  While the Reverend slowly descends into paranoia, insanity and religious conspiracy theory involving the Illuminati, Brother Lawrence is having visions, which the Reverend dismisses out of spiritual arrogance.

It takes a while to get into the play’s rhythms, but once you are used to the insanity it all becomes very entertaining. The two actors really get into their characters and get to stretch by playing multiple roles in Brother Lawrence’s visions, which we see in the form of Vaudeville-type sketches (particularly memorable ones include a country music number called “Jesus Was a Lutheran” and a bit where Saint Paul is portrayed as Paul Lynde).

Curry’s portrayal of Reverend Eddie is solid, though the actor did appear to be having trouble with his lines during the opening night performance I attended. Still, I completely sympathized with him as he descended into madness and despair.

The show really owes everything, however, to Lebangood’s Brother Lawrence. The actor is just hilarious and endearing as the much-put-upon and simple-minded monk. He also managed to contort his body believably as a hunchback and never broke the character, which couldn’t have been an easy feat.

Sadly, there was an overall lack of energy and a rather slow pace during the very sparsely attended opening night performance, but I think this was due more to lack of audience response than the performances or the solid direction by Joey Arena.

Truly a thought-provoking and satirical take on overly organized religion, Some Things You Need to Know… is yet another example of the fun and edgy theater we have come to expect from the Alley. Give it a shot (but say a prayer first)!

SOME THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE THE WORLD ENDS (A FINAL EVENING WITH THE ILLUMINATI)

Starring Paul Curry and J.P. Lebangood

December 29, 30, 2011, January 6, 7, 13, 14, 20 & 21, 2012.  Shows at 7:30 PM.

The Alley Theater
1205 East Washington Street
Louisville, KY 40202
502-589-3866
http://thealleytheater.org/site/

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