The Ends of the Earth
nytheatre.com review by Richard Hinojosa
March 18, 2006
So much of our lives is made up of the twisted little webs we weave. These webs can become so complex that we soon forget where we started or what we anchored on to in the first place. The line between reality and fantasy can become blurred as we knit new threads over old ones and we begin to believe our own lies. We question reality and filter fantasy for nuggets of truth until we come to the conclusion that a chair is not a chair until we sit in it. Morris Panych’s The Ends of the Earth explores these themes with dead-on and slightly absurd comic insight.
Two men, Frank and Walker, have come to believe their own paranoid fantasies. Each is convinced that the other is out to get him, and so they embark on a bizarre journey that leads them to (yes, you guessed it) the ends of the Earth. There is, of course, a crappy, half-fallen-into-the-ocean hotel at the end of the Earth where two ladies are simultaneously guests and proprietors. On their way there, Frank and Walker meet a series of oddballs including a gypsy psychic and a drugged-up truck driver who serve to feed their delusions. The funny thing is, both Frank and Walker seem to desire a relatively normal life, but at the same time it seems they really don’t.
It is this dichotomy—this inner struggle within each of them—that appeals to me most about Panych’s writing in this play. These two guys seem to want to be free of their paranoia but they come to realize that they’d be lost without it. They live in a world that has become part reality and part fantasy and they have trouble distinguishing between the two. Still they need something to blame for their problems and shortcomings and luckily they have their paranoia.
The play is certainly funny in a quirky sort of way, but not a gut-buster. I liked the intentionally obvious structure, it works to highlight their fated meeting, but I could have done with a little less direct audience address. No, it is Frank and Walker’s resistance to and constant search for personal freedom that, for me, makes The Ends of the Earth a truly remarkable play.
Peter Sanfilippo’s direction is so on the money that it seems as though he might have conceived and written the play himself. A curious parade of characters at the opening hooked me for the rest of the evening. His simple staging for the many different locations works to keep the pace hopping along and, with an across-the-board style of heightened reality, he creates an intriguing world all its own.
The cast appears to be as comfortable with each other on stage as they do in the multiple characters that most are called upon to tackle. David Jacks leads us off with a naturally nerdy Frank. Jacks does a great job pulling us into the bizarre world of the play. Leslie Loggans hits with an easily pushed over the edge Walker and Amy Broder is hilarious as the swindling gypsy psychic. But it is Kelly Miller who steals the night. Each one of his characters is so distinctly peculiar. He also wins the night for most characters played at no fewer than eight.
I had a good time at The Ends of the Earth. There were a couple of lines that I was still giggling over as I walked down the street. This production is cohesive in a raw, committed sort of way. Everyone seems to be on the same page. What more can you ask for?