How to survive a review of Apocalypse – the dinner drama raises deep questions | Theater


Ther play won’t teach you how to survive an apocalypse. Presented as a romantic comedy about the intricacies of survivalism, this four-handed film by Canadian writer Jordan Hall is a dinner drama about four millennials dissatisfied with their plight. Convinced that being able to pitch a tent could improve their lives, they are drastically disappointed when it doesn’t.

The main axis of the plot is the attraction of Jen (Kristin Atherton) to Bruce (Ben Lamb), holder of a hunting license, next to whom her husband, Tim (Noel Sullivan) – kind, funny and not a fan of shooting – is nothing in comparison. To hide her urge to spend time with Bruce, she sets him up with her friend Abby (Christine Gomes), whose partner recently broke up with her: another kind of end of the world. The four actors play well together, but it’s with Tim that our allegiance lies – Jen is infuriating her inability to see what she has.

Millennial distress… Ben Lamb as Bruce and Christine Gomes as Abby in How to Survive an Apocalypse. Photograph: Tristram Kenton / The Guardian

Written in 2016 and first performed in Canada, Hall’s text digs its toes into what it takes to survive a disaster, but never goes far enough to arouse genuine curiosity or terror. In the program there is an essay on the history of survivalism and its more modern right-wing and religious threads, all of which are fascinating. but none of that is ever mentioned in the play. Instead, the end of days ideas are hollowed out and stuffed with millennial clichés, the existential threat right there to add a new frame to an otherwise traditional story of an unhappy marriage.

The impact of the piece is clearer when the quartet delves into why they are drawn to survivalism and what perspective gives them the thrill of the impending end times; it’s not really about learning how to survive a disaster, but how to find the thing that makes this life worth rising up. These ideas only come in flash, however, quickly swept aside by yet another episode of yelling about relationships the characters clearly shouldn’t be in.

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