A play called “End Days” had a happy ending of sorts in a delightful Carpenter Square Theatre production of the witty, but also wise, well-balanced and warmly satisfying script by Deborah Zoe Laufer. All five members of the cast were outstanding in the “offbeat” (and then some) comedy, set in September, 2003, and directed by Joe DiBello.
Kyle Lacy made an excellent catalyst as Nelson Steinberg, who has a crush on the Steins' daughter, Rachel, and follows her home from school, dressed as Elvis Presley, whom his late mother idolized.
Strumming his guitar, shrugging off getting bullied for his outfit, and embracing Judaism, Christianity and physics, all at the same time, Lacy was utterly charming and just nerdy enough in the part.
Interacting with Nelson are the members of the comically dysfunctional Stein family, made up of Goth daughter Rachel, religious fanatic mother Sylvia and lethargic 9/11 survivor Arthur.
JJ Arends was punkishly appealing and often humorously on-target as Rachel, who wears black like a uniform, and an edgy, angry, frequently foul-mouthed “attitude” as if it were a badge of honor. Arends not only transcended stereotypical aspects of her role as Rachel but managed to turn her into something like (horrors!) a normal teenager, who loves Nelson and her family by the end of the play.
Tad Thurston was equally effective as the father, Arthur, a supervisor of 65 people in one of the twin towers, who wears pajamas all day and does nothing, apparently suffering from “survivor's guilt.”
But it was TooToo Cirlot who almost stole the show, playing it straight as she explored the hard veneer and underlying vulnerability of Sylvia.
Terry Veal had a comic “two-for-the-price-of-one” dream role, as both Jesus Christ and physicist (and best-selling author) Stephen Hawking. Veal was particularly funny as the “personal” Jesus of Sylvia's imagination, when her demands for constant reassurances start to make him a little uncomfortable.
But Veal also had some good moments as the muse and fantasy suitor of Rachel, delivering recorded words of wisdom as the wheelchair-bound Hawking while she is under the influence of marijuana.
Lasting about two hours, not counting an intermission, Carpenter Square's “End Days” was highly entertaining and also moving, and shouldn't be missed.
— John Brandenburg