Lessons on the Meaning of Life: END DAYS at Langhorne Players

by Lesley Grigg

How did you prepare for the rapture that was supposed to take place last May, but is now apparently postponed to October? Some people threw rapture parties, some people prayed, some people went on with their lives just like any other day.

The cast (Laurie Hardy (Silvia); Jon Zucker (as Jesus; also plays Stephen Hawking); Dana Maginity (Rachel); Kevin Durkin (Nelson); and John Pinto (Arthur)), of Langhorne Players' END DAYS, running through July 30.

Such is the story of END DAYS which follows one family that was dramatically effected by the events of 9-11, and are now preparing for the end of the world.

After a confusing mash-up of audio clips of hallelujah church music with hebrew prayers and Elvis tunes, we meet a less-than-dreamy pubescent fan of the King strumming out a witty, Adam Sandler-like tune about one particular girl. Later we learn Elvis is really a well-spoken, fast-talking, stalker named Nelson Steinberg (Kevin Durkin). Nelson arrives at the home of the song’s muse, Rachel Stein (Dana Maginity), met by her catatonic father and Jesus loving mother.

Arthur Stein (John Pinto), is anything but the perfect father figure, as he’s not one to shower, dress, or leave the house. Sylvia Stein (Laurie Hardy) seems like a wonderful mother, very positive and loving, and who has a close, personal relationship to Jesus. So close that she’s tethered to her imaginary version of JC like a leashed three year old at Disney World. So it’s really no surprise that Rachel Stein, who’s been immortalized in Elvis/Nelson’s song as being a very smart and desirable girl, has chosen a darker, more gothic path to follow.

All actors play their unique roles to a tee. Each make choices that set their characters apart from each other and show true growth from beginning to end. Of course, some of the characters’ choices are weightier than others. Sylvia has to choose between family and religious beliefs, where Nelson has to choose between Elvis and fitting in. It’s also amazing how the everyday choices, like a simple kiss, or getting dressed and buying cereal, can change a person and a family.

The most notable change is in Arthur Stein. We see what it takes for him to transform into a depressed and guilt ridden ex-Senior VP of one World Trade Center company, to a veggie plating, waffle and reuben making father of the year. The end of Act 2 brings a very heartfelt scene between Arthur and Sylvia, where the issue of forgiveness, which is stressed religiously throughout the play, takes on a more universal meaning.

The most recognizable change is Jon Zucker’s transformation from Jesus Christ to Stephen Hawking. Jesus only speaks to Sylvia during the play, and Rachel is the only one to converse with Stephen Hawking, but both Jesus’ and Dr. Hawking’s presence are felt throughout the play and pop up at the most opportune times, like when you need to save sinners in front of the XXX shop, or when you take too many drugs and can’t remember your locker combination. Zucker is able to give both roles equal attention, and even finds time to interject his own voice in order to break the monotony of Steven’s computer like cadence.

Other major life choices such as moving on, having faith, and giving in to love, all play major roles in the story and teach us all a little about the meaning of life. Maybe it’s easier to understand the meaning while you’re high, dressed as Elvis, or speak like a computer, but it’s summed up nicely in the end when noted that “life isn’t so bad, even the bad stuff is interesting.”

So, who would you choose to be with when the world comes to an end? Whether your first choice is Elvis, Jesus, a British physicist, or your immediate family, remember to live everyday like it’s a “once in a lifetime event,” and that right now should be “the greatest time to be alive.”

by Deborah Zoe Laufer
Directed by Kathy Junkins
July 15 – 30, 2011
Langhorne Players
The Spring Garden Mill
Route 332 (Richboro Road)
Newtown, PA 18940
(215) 860-0818

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