nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
I hope it doesn’t trivialize the events of 9/11 to say that they were a
wake-up call for a lot of people, but I think that’s true. It’s
certainly one of the themes of Kelly McAllister’s stunning new play
Last Call. Set in a bar in a suburban California town, Last Call
tells the story of a group of friends who have known each other all
their lives. Now in their mid-thirties, they seem to be stuck in ruts,
professionally, personally, and emotionally; the dreams and ideals of
their youth seem far away, if not entirely lost. Suddenly, David, the
friend who "made good"—got a high-powered job and moved to New York
City—returns, and like a modern-day Hickey (from O’Neill’s Iceman
Cometh) he sets out to free his barfly friends from the illusions
that have them trapped.
August 15, 2002
Trouble is, David’s pals’ illusions are achingly, bitterly real: they’re the soiled fabric of real life—unrequited love affairs, unsatisfying jobs, unhappy marriages. David works hard to shock these people out of their inertia (one of the things he does is take off all his clothes; there is a bit of frontal nudity in this play). His own catharsis came three months after the World Trade Center attacks, when he contemplated suicide on a subway platform; after all the carnage and loss, he thought, how could buying and selling and talking and trading matter?
David’s reappearance in town catalyzes everybody into violent reaction, though how much finally changes among them is uncertain. McAllister shrewdly keeps David somewhat shadowy; the protagonist of the play is probably Jerry, the friend whose life seems to be most stunted (his big news during the past ten years was that he moved out of his parents’ house into their garage). And the leading character of Last Call is neither of the above: he’s a sad, damaged fellow named Jack, another friend, who lost the love of his life in a car crash fifteen years before and has never quite recovered. Space doesn’t permit me to introduce the rest of the circle to you here; suffice to say that McAllister has created people we understand and care about.
Last Call is beautifully written: it’s messy and poetic, like life. This production, directed by Jerry McAllister and produced by Hope Theatre, is spectacularly good. The cast is excellent: Jack Halpin (Jack), Matthew Rankin (Jerry), Brett Christensen (David), and Christine Goodman, R. Paul Hamilton, John Patrick Nord, Vinnie Penna, Masha Sapron, and Sara Thigpen. This one deserves a life after FringeNYC (but go ahead and see it now, just in case.)