Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Also see Gil's reviews of Hector Coris and Matt Newhard in Together (For No Good Reason), Curtains and Twilight's Quest
The young couple Marco and Jenny find themselves separated after having had a fight shortly before the apocalypse happens. They previously agreed to meet at the top of a mountain if the world comes to an end so Marco waits patiently for Jenny to arrive. While he is waiting he receives word from Jenny, usually by way of postcards, and based on the images on the postcards or the words that Jenny uses Marco imagines the various ways that the world has ended.
From a zombie infestation to an attack by aliens and killer robots, each scenario is different, with some full of laughs and others of emotional intensity. Unfortunately, while Madden's script is interesting and intriguing, a few of the apocalyptic possibilities run on a bit too long and there is some confusion as to whether or not the scenarios are all in Marco's imagination or if the world has literally been set upon by multiple apocalypses. At intermission the person in front of me stated, "ok, I'm confused," and I don't think he was the only one. Some clarity in the beginning sequence that sets up the scenarios would help eliminate some of the problems and some editing would help speed the plot along.
Director Mat Vansen elicits effective portrayals from his cast while also not allowing the shifts in tone throughout the play, from comical to serious, to not be too obtrusive. As Marco, Brendan Gilhooly projects the right level of questioning and confusion he derives from the content of the letters he receives, but he also demonstrates an ongoing sense of hope while Alexxis Briviesca instills Jenny with an appropriate amount of urgency.
The rest of the cast play multiple parts and are all quite good. Heather Gahagan is a hoot as a hysterical bride who finds out that zombies are ruining her wedding day and also compassionate as a pregnant woman seeking help from a PTSD suffering solider effectively portrayed by Jaren Navenma. David Magadan and Jessie Tully are deeply moving as two station monitors, at locations a distance apart, who help each other during their radio communications to hold on to hope during an apocalyptic flood. Alexandra Utpadel is hilarious as a southern belle religious fanatic who is lecturing those unfortunate ones who are left behind after the chosen ones are raptured to heaven. Magadan is also quite good as a father who has to deal with the unfortunate consequences after he is unable to save his family during a nuclear bomb attack. Tully and Utpadel are very funny as two sorority sisters fighting over the last remaining sandwich cookie, and Navenma also makes a comical mailman who doesn't let an apocalypse get in the way of him doing his job.
While Vansen's set design is minimal, the mostly grungy costume designs by Cody Goulder and fantastic hair and makeup designs by Megan O'Connor are quite effective in portraying the impact on the war-ravaged and zombie-infested individuals. Fernando Perez's sound design adds plenty of heightened moments and comical bits via his impactful sound effects and musical underscore.
Ultimately, Postcards from the Apocalypse comes across as a series of very different "Saturday Night Live"-style skits, some of which are more effective than the others. Even though the piece could be better focused with more clarity, there is a connectivity to the vignettes and the ones with comical moments are funny with organic bits that grow out of the situations.
The Brelby Theatre Company production of Postcards from the Apocalypse runs through May 21st, 2016, with performances at 6835 N 58th Avenue in Glendale. Tickets are available at www.brelby.com or by phone at 623-282-2781.
Written by Paco Madden