The End of Days
nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
August 19, 2012
I love the premise of The End of Days, a new play by Jeffrey James Keyes at FringeNYC. The blurb in the program guide tantalizingly describes it:
Kitt and Nina are reunited on the last night of the Mayan Calendar. Who would you spend your End of Days with?
Nina is a onetime dancer-turned-yoga instructor living in a small apartment in New York. Kitt is a successful photographer. Years ago, for a time, they were lovers. Now, tonight, in a driving blizzard, Kitt unexpectedly turns up at Nina's door. After some awkward preliminaries, Kitt reveals why he has come: the end of the world is imminent, he fears (and not just because of the Mayans' prediction). He's decided that the person he wants with him if/when the End comes, is...Nina.
Now, how romantic is that? Even though Kitt is arguably possibly unhinged to buy into the Mayans and Nostradamus, et al, the idea that he wants to exit this life beside this women whose love he lost long ago feels sweet and touching and beautiful. And Adam David Thompson—tall, bearded, lanky, with a boyish, goofy charm—makes Kitt a very likable and easy to root for (if unlikely) hero.
But Keyes needs conflict in his play, and that's provided in the character of Nina. Portrayed by the accomplished actress Libby Winters, Nina is abrasive, manipulative, and full of inconsistencies. On the one hand, she's been nursing a grudge against Kitt that's probably at least a decade old. On the other, she's obviously still attracted to him, at least physically, and leads him on over and over again despite her clear ambivalence in renewing the relationship. On the third hand, she's recovering from a very difficult relationship with another man, Dustin. And on the fourth hand—well, she's just sort of nasty, though we never really get enough information about who she was or who she is now. Keyes lets Kitt lay himself bare for us with his early confession about fear of the apocalypse. But except for the important fact that Kitt has chosen her, we have little to go on that will help us understand or like Nina.
And so it was hard for me to immerse myself in the lovely romantic notion of The End of Days.
The play, about an hour long, is directed by Terry Berliner and well-performed by its cast. A busy realistic set (filled with junk that Nina must inexplicably clear away before the action properly begins) is by David Arsenault. Keyes gives his actors a singularly complicated task to accomplish at the end of the play (I won't spoil things by saying exactly what it is): kudos to Winters and Thompson for their remarkable concentration as they do what's asked of them while staying resolutely in character.