The Apocalyptic Road Show With Your Hosts Gdjet And Lulu
nytheatre.com review by Loren Noveck
July 25, 2012
There's a famous quote from a Brecht poem: "In the dark times, will there also be singing? There will also be singing about the dark times."
Which is a pretty good capsule description of The Apocalyptic Road Show with Your Hosts Gdjet and Lulu. I might perhaps call it instead a pre-apocalyptic cabaret, but whatever you call it, it's a confident, savvy, dark, and oddly poignant gem of a show nonetheless, one that will simultaneously have you laughing, outraged, and terribly sad at the terrors of the modern world.
If the world were going to end today, right now, really—if you were pretty thoroughly positive that at 8:12 pm tonight, the Rapture, in all the particulars laid out by the Book of Revelation, would be upon us, what would you be thinking and feeling in that final hour? Well, the down-at-the-heel chanteuses Gdjet and Lulu have chosen to spend that final hour with us, giving us a whirlwind tour through human history, and trying to buck up our spirits: "It's the end of the world so put your happy face on. We're all gonna die."
Gdjet and Lulu preside over a grimly madcap, blisteringly funny, and sometimes genuinely unnerving summation of humanity's worst failings: war, genocide, cruelty, racism, selfishness, financial meltdown, global catastrophe. Simultaneously, they're being interviewed, by a dispassionate, matter-of-fact voice from above, about their own lives, to determine their prospects for the afterlife: Were they Good People or Bad People? How do their perfectly ordinary existences measure up in the great balance? Did they recycle? Take public transportation? Stop wars? Really, honestly, love their neighbors as themselves?
Like any cabaret or variety show, this one is a grab bag of musical numbers, sketches, comedy bits, and so forth, all performed by Lulu and Gdjet: Lulu (Nancy Walsh) is a little more wide-eyed in amazement at it all, and Gdjet (Catherine Gillard) a little more world-weary. Unlike your average cabaret, the musical numbers feature a chilling little ditty about the End of Days, and the sketches include monologues from the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, reimagined as modern figures: a has-been actress shilling for a Save-the-Children-type charity or an American general drunk on war.
The striking thing about John Clancy's script is that although its overall tone is satiric, often savagely so, and although it's fairly merciless about our capacity for evil, monstrous, or even merely thoughtless acts, there's also an undercurrent of enormous compassion. Gdjet, Lulu, and the voice from above may sometimes rage at or despair the state of the world, not to mention the state of each of our individual souls; they may analyze the audience to see which of us will be Raptured and which left behind; but there's no self-righteousness being directed at the audience.
The piece also benefits from its enormous simplicity and restraint: two performers in tattered but glittering costumes, two stools, two microphones, and an intimate setting. (The cabaret set-up, giving the New Ohio the feel of a dinner theater dropped into a derelict warehouse, works well here.) Walsh and Gillard (and director Peter Clerke) resist all impulses toward televangelistic flourish as Lulu and Gdjet, while still fully realizing the other characters in the bits, from myopic awards-show hostesses to self-important bankers.
Of course, a show preparing you for the imminent apocalypse is by definition going to have a tough time coming up with an ending that lives up to its billing, and I wasn't crazy about the way that challenge was handled. All that comes before, though, makes it well more than worth the trip.