The small crowd that trickled in for Theater Intime’s Saturday night “service” was greeted by altar servers handing out bulletin-style programs and invited to enjoy an evening of readings by Father Eddie, applause from Brother Lawrence, and…a basketball game with Death, a stationary bicycle torture device, and gunshots? Yep, that sounds about right. Theater Intime’s production of “Some Things You Need to Know Before the World Ends: A Final Evening with the Illuminati” by Levi Lee and Larry Larson, and directed by Will Martinez ’11, was a cross between dark comedy and morbid satire. It left the audience chuckling, cringing (sometimes simultaneously) and perpetually trying to understand what was going on.
Set in a bizarre post-apocalyptic church that looked like a garage before the garage sale and featured a crucifix lit up by orange Christmas lights, this provocative play was not for the weak of heart—or the easily offended. It’s hard to tell whether the play takes place in the present or in the future or whether that matters at all as the main character, Father Eddie, played by Name 1, seems to spend most of the time trying to answer the same question. Through interactions with the seemingly more lucid Brother Lawrence, played by Name 2, and a series of flash backs (or flash forwards?) Father Eddie strives to figure it all out: the meaning of life, the meaning of common experiences, and the meaning of religion.
The transitions between “real life” and the thoughts in Father Eddie’s head are blurred at times, but this may just add to the quizzical nature of the show. Scenes featuring the hokey admissions process into sainthood, conversations between Saints Peter and Paul about women in the church, and a hick-ish jig about Lutherans both clued the crowd in on Father Eddie’s lack of sanity and forced it to nod periodically in agreement.
While the first act of the show aims to get some good laughs—and succeeds for the most part—it’s hard to decide whether it prepares one for Act 2. Whereas Father Eddie is portrayed as just being a little nutty at first, he heads straight for lunacy after intermission, shooting at the “congregation” and eventually cutting himself to death. Brother Lawrence doesn’t seem surprised by this regression. In fact, he seems almost to have anticipated it all along. Although Father Eddie believes that he’s the one taking care of the hunchbacked monk, whom he always considers an inferior being incapable of becoming a saint or being cured, it becomes evident by the end of the show that Brother Lawrence is the real caretaker in the relationship. The play closes with Brother Lawrence’s somber reading of Father Eddie’s key-to-happiness sermon, titled “Life is Like a Basketball Game.” Although he spends an hour and half humorously juggling about half a dozen of the most controversial topics, he ends with an earnest five minutes as Brother Lawrence encourages audiences to “do what you love…and no matter how bad things get, never crawl into the fan belt.”
Plot aside, the interpretation and staging of this unusual play are highly impressive. Alternating dramatic and casual lighting draws the audience deeper into Father Eddie’s mind, and the intentionally haphazard set, complete with graffitied walls and just a lot of random crap, couldn’t set the scene better. Name 1 (Father Eddie) gives a very believable delivery of an unbelievable script and provides a very accurate—although at times exaggerated—portrayal of a crazy person about to jump ship. Name 2 (Brother Lawrence), on the other hand, provides any further entertainment audience members may crave for, adding humor to his depiction of Father Eddie’s otherwise depressing illness and switching seamlessly from character to character during the side-plot scenes. The cast is rounded out by Name 3, who appears as an illuminatus (a figure in a black cloak sporting a gas mask) and provides occasional interjections over the loud speakers.
Overall, I’m still not quite sure who the Illuminati are, and I still can’t decide how I feel about some of the questions the play posed. I’m still thinking about it, though, and I guess that’s the point.