May 13th, 2015


Review: An Apocalyptic Vaudeville

... wow.

It's been a busy month for us in terms of going to shows. This past weekend was the new Avengers movie with my mother (review: lots of things blow up), and the weekend before that was Broadway tickets for the revival of On the 20th Century with Kate's family (review: quite a bit of fun, and I'm getting the soundtrack). Those were the ones where I knew roughly what to expect.

Last night, we had tickets at the ART for the world premiere of The Last Two People on Earth: An Apocalyptic Vaudeville. And... wow.

I gather the show is the brainchild of its four principals: it stars Taylor Mac as essentially a vaudeville clown who washes up in the last music hall after the world is destroyed in storm and flood, Mandy Patinkin as the bitter compatriot he finds there, with Paul Ford on piano and Susan Stroman as Director / Choreographer. That's serious wattage, and it shows in the most gloriously weird show I've seen in ages.

Our protagonists basically go through the stages of grief in a story told entirely in a wild variety of song, ranging from Freddie Mercury to Sondheim to REM to Gilbert and Sullivan. The first half's a bit more narrative, the second half mostly impressionistic, but this is more an exploration of mood than plot, deeply funny but also deeply melancholy. The humor is deliberately a bit uncomfortable at times (as, for example, they realize that they aren't exactly the stereotypical post-apocalyptic Adam and Eve), but they make it work well.

Make no mistake, this is about as high-concept as you get -- the best way I can describe the style is as if Moulin Rouge had been directed by Terry Gilliam. By all rights, the thing *should* simply be precious, but it is saved from that by the talent and passion of the folks involved. As it is, it's fascinating and affecting, with the songs deployed brilliantly to sweep you along.

It's a short run, and not a huge theater; it's likely to sell out, but there appear to still be some seats to be had. I recommend it in the strongest terms: this is the sort of strange genius that doesn't come along very often...