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2012: End of the Road

Jon Elston's "2012: End of the Road" runs through December 2.

And while we are indulging in serious takes on the silly, Jon Elston examines the end of the 5,125-year-long cycle of the Mesoamerican (or Mayan) Long Count calendar. It seems that many people who primarily get their news (and their education) while waiting at the grocery store checkout believe that the world will end on December 21, 2012. In his play, 2012: End of the Road, Elston has some fun with the idea, and visits the end of time with a group of people trapped in the Hardee’s restaurant in a rest area on the New York State Thruway.

The playwright assembles a veritable disaster film of characters. We’ve got the pragmatic scientist with a heart condition, the zealous right-wing Jesus-freak, the narcoleptic teenager and her protective father, the cynical nihilist, the earnest Hardee’s assistant manager, the border cop, and the anxious finance man. When extraordinary meteorological phenomena hit, this becomes a sci-fi Poseidon Adventure.

The script reminds me of Elston’s previous visit to tabloid sci-fi, Private Viewing, in which a government project was trying to harness the psychic abilities of private citizens to control the population. There are similarly delightful riffs on pop culture camp and ample opportunities for actors to chew up the scenery. The writing offers many playful twists and turns involving the colorful array of characters. Elston, after all, is a skilled and clever writer.

In time, however, I began to conclude that he was either having trouble deciding where we were going, or having trouble deciding why we were making the journey. In its current form, the script is sprawling. This does not entirely eliminate the pleasure of the evening by any means, but is something he will want to address in any further development. Without clarity of theme, unity of tone, or a coherent spine for the action, what we’ve got is endless variations on a single joke. There is probably more to mine from the concept.

Still, I will confess that I had great fun at 2012: End of the Road and that the cast is uniformly excellent.

Directed by Scott Behrend, the production features the able talents of Bob Grabowski, Barry Williams, Sara Kow-Falcone, Christina Rausa, Kay Kerimian, Xavier Harris, David C. Mitchell, and Monish Bhattacharya. The production continues through December 2, Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm, Road Less Traveled Theater, Market Arcade Film & Arts Centre (639 Main Street). Call 629-3069 for tickets.