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After the End
By Liza Zapol
London has been struck by a nuclear bomb and the sole survivors, as far as they're concerned, are Mark (Tom Brooke) and Louise (Loo Brealey) -- an unlikey pair. A nightmarish scenario by any measure, they begin by trying to make the best of things.
Mark, oddly prepared for Armageddon, happens to have purchased a flat with a bomb shelter which he has kept stocked up with food. His nerdy behavior and paranoia was once the object of ridicule from Louise and her circle of friends. Once on that circle's periphery, Mark now he has the upper hand.
The play is set in Mark's bomb shelter. Though it is described as old it looks extremely modern, similar to an all-white set of a sci-fi space movie. Perhaps this is how Mark has prepared the space for their long stay. Louise is initially shell-shocked but then begins to make peace with being in the shelter for the long haul. She and Mark have fairly normal conversations and prepare for several weeks of Chili.
The dialogue starts off on a fairly light and snappy note and despite the dark circumstances, the characters make the play feel almost comedic. This copasetic relationship does not last long. Feeling entitled because it is his bomb shelter, Mark begins to coerce Louise into doing what he wishes by rationing her food. The disillusioned nerd in him come out when he wants her to play Dungeons and Dragons with him "for her own good". However, as the coercion intensifies, the play is transformed into a disturbing thriller.
Dennis Kelly has carefully crafted a subtle shocker of a play. It's well directed by Roxana Silbert and the performances are strong. Loo Brealey convincingly shows the rapid devolution of a victim, though this becomes quite painful to watch. Tom Brooke is excellent as Mark during the awkward, geeky parts, but is harder to believe when he goes off his rocker. Madness is very difficult to perform and Brooke seems caught in a general impression of madness, rather than really fleshing out Mark's obsessions.
The production values are sleek, with a remarkable sound design of cool, haunting beats during the strobe-lighted transitions by Matt McKenzie. Overall, the play is well made though it feels a bit too long. Perhaps that is because the world in the beginning of After the End is an interesting world, with subtext, intrigue, and wit. But, as the danger becomes more immanent, little is left to the imagination, and the pace seems to slow down. Despite a slow finish, this is a powerful and surprising addition to the Brits off Broadway season.
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Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by our editor.
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