Go see "End Days" at Burien Actors Theatre

by Tim Takechi

Sixteen-year-old Rachel Stein is not unlike many teenage girls. She has trouble fitting in at school, a strained relationship with her parents, boy trouble, and of course, dreading the impending Apocalypse.
That last part may not be typical of the American teenage experience, but in Burien Actor’s Theatre’s production of “End Days,” Ms. Stein has a lot on her plate and has to deal with all of this in a truncated amount of time.

Written by Deborah Zoe Laufer, “End Days” is an intriguing dark comedy that seamlessly integrates romance, satire and tragedy with quirkiness and charm. Director Jane Ryan weaves an eclectic mixture of characters into a story that seems appropriate in the wake of the December 21, 2012 apocalypse that never quite happened.

Rachel Stein (Gemma Cody-Anders) doesn’t seem to fit in anywhere. She uses her gothic-inspired wardrobe and bookworm personality to avoid interacting with people. Despite her anti-social behavior, a friendly schoolmate named Nelson (Brad Walker) becomes smitten with her and decides to follow her everywhere. Nelson is a neighbor boy who happens to be an Elvis impersonator. Frequently bullied and having had a dysfunctional childhood himself, Nelson’s enthusiasm for life is admirable.

Rachel’s mother is Sylvia, a devoted born-again Christian who literally has accepted Jesus into her heart to the point where Jesus himself (Mark Gladding) frequently accompanies her on her soul-saving adventures.

Rachel’s father Arthur (Russ Kay), is jobless, lethargic and clearly suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder caused by being a survivor of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The Stein family fled New York City to a quiet suburb to run away from their problems. But their problems, as expected, never goes away.

Sylvia uses religion to cope. Arthur decides to never get dressed or leave the house (not even to do shopping, much to his family’s chagrin). Rachel hides behind the façade of being an angry teenage girl.
But Nelson sees something special in her. One day he bravely lends her a copy of Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time.” She reads it and eventually finds herself talking to Stephen Hawking (also played by Gladding), much like how Sylvia talk to Jesus.

Whether Jesus and Stephen Hawking are figments of Sylvia and Rachel’s imagination or divine visions isn’t really important.

What is important is when our protagonist is informed that the world will end next Wednesday. What happens next reveals how these damaged souls make sense out of a life that didn’t deal them the best hand. The Stein family and Nelson have seen the worst the world can throw at you but are slowly coming around…which makes the looming apocalypse either a mistimed tragedy or a liberating relief.

The cast’s strength is in using humor and their character’s idiosyncrasies to tell us a story that’s very comical despite the Book of Revelation-inspired themes. “End Days” performs May 9 – June 1, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays as 2 p.m. General admission is $20 and seniors/students are $17. For ticket information and to learn about their special deals, go to burienactorstheatre.org or call 206-242-5180.

The show is suitable for ages 13 and up due to occasional adult language. The Burien Annex is located at
425 SW 144th Street, Burien, WA 98166.

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