A guy walks into a bar…he turns out to be God… and he wants you to inherit the earth. This is just one of many intriguing incidents that takes place EARLY ONE EVENING AT THE RAINBOW BAR & GRILL.
At first it seemed as though things couldn’t get much better. The play opened on a quiet bar, a colorful and well constructed set stocked with darts, a jukebox, beer paraphernalia on the wall, and I Love Lucy on TV. However, for writer/bartender, Shep (Coz Baldwin), it seemed things couldn’t get much worse. He’s just received notice his first book is going to be published, right when news spreads that the world will be coming to an end within the hour. Baldwin turned Shep’s distress into an eerie calmness, making me believe he was torn between wanting to live and having to die. The scene where Shep admits he’s accepted death, even when there was a glimmer of hope for life, had the right touch of poignancy without being too sappy. Even though we never learn how Shep’s book really ends, we catch that glimmer of hope in his square dancing and laissez-faire attitude, and it’s comforting to know he will be at peace no matter the outcome.
Shep’s not alone in his distress or come-what-may way of thinking. Roy (Alex Howey) is not afraid to take advantage of his last day on earth. His bucket list includes many of the activities any American would want: a day of drinking, gambling, and a road-trip to Disney. Howey delivers some great one-liners with the right kind of timing to make the audience laugh out loud.
Colleen Mackle’s character Shirley had her own bucket list that included what every girl wants: diamonds. She wasted no time raiding the jewelry store and car dealerships once the opportunity arose. Mackle brought out the feistiness as she tempted Shep with her feminine wiles, all in an attempt to end this last day with a bang.
Distress turns to all-out craziness when Willie (Jacki Green) shows up at the bar in camouflage, pointing a rifle in everyone’s general direction, ready to shoot at will. I believe she was referred to as a past girl scout, but I don’t think they pass out badges for shooting nagging husbands. Green didn’t seem to mind as she strutted around the stage, comfortable with a weapon in her hand, never changing her militaristic tone or attitude, even when given the choice to live or die.
Bullard (Jim Palmer) didn’t seem too fazed about an apocalypse. He continuously played the confident aluminum siding salesman, or was he a doctor, policeman, or maybe a priest? Nonetheless, he wasn’t going to let a little world destruction kill his buzz. He did say he “would rather be a good liver than have one.”
Once a crazy blonde, wielding a steel pipe, enters the bar, the story really takes a turn for the dramatic. At this point, Virginia (Beverly Sharp) is at her wits’ end, but Sharp plays just the right amount of crazy without overdoing it. It may have been the 80s style clothing and hair scrunchy that made her seem less threatening. Like Baldwin, Sharp takes the audience along on an emotional roller-coaster, making each rise and fall meaningful. Then, like most women, she ends up taking the lead when the men start falling apart.
Joe (John Weber), the “Cosmic Gepetto”, the lover of Life Savers candies, the suit who knows everyone’s name, makes inoperable phones work, and wants to sit and chat with a couple who just wants to make the most of their last moments together, comes in at the end of Act I to turn things upside down. While the town is going crazy, shooting husbands, running around naked, and releasing pet store animals, Joe is focused on just two people: Shep and Virginia. Just like they were the only two people left on earth. Who knows why a writer/bartender and a health/phys ed teacher are the chosen ones, but Joe made sure to equip them with all they needed: the important highlighted sections of every holy text. Thank goodness for that.
Even with a few opening night lighting, curtain, and dialogue flubs, the point was apparent. Let’s not focus on the end, let’s make the choice to live now.
EARLY ONE EVENING AT THE RAINBOW BAR & GRILL
by Bruce Graham
Directed by Ron Green
March 9-24, 2012
Village Players of Hatboro
401 Jefferson Avenue
Hatboro, PA 19040