Exhausting absurdity

Despite strengths The Ends of the Earth falters

Did you ever go to a play and once it’s over leave the theatre wondering what you just witnessed? You’re pretty sure you saw something significant but can’t quite follow all of the threads? Morris Panych’s The Ends of the Earth is one of those shows.

Now playing at Vertigo Mystery Theatre the Governor General’s Award-winning play offers a number of comments on the state of our society paranoia loneliness isolation and the meaning of life. Just don’t ask me any particulars of how the play does it.

Panych’s writing is brilliant and there is a lot of it. In fact one of the central characters Frank (Christian Goutsis) barely pauses for breath throughout the entire play.

Just because the writing is brilliant however doesn’t mean the story is particularly gripping or entertaining. The plot is really much ado about nothing. While that narrative meaninglessness is Panych’s intent it is ultimately unsatisfying.

The two main characters Frank and Walker (Kevin Corey) have a chance meeting at a bus stop. That sets off a tailspin of events in which both men think the other is following him.

Frank can’t understand why anyone would want to follow him as he makes a concerted effort to be completely average and blend in with everyone else.

Walker thinks Frank is part of some sort of establishment that has cursed him with bad luck ever since he was struck by lightning as a toddler.

Their lives become dedicated to running away from one another which ironically only brings them closer together. Frank and Walker encounter a host of weird characters on their respective journeys and eventually end up at the same dilapidated old hotel — The Ends of The Earth — staffed by two crazy women Alice (Rebecca Northan) and Willy (Natascha Girgis).

The show is a tour-de-force for all actors involved particularly Goutsis and Dave Horak who assumes eight of the play’s incidental characters.

The Ends of The Earth is categorized as an absurdist comedy and there certainly are some laughs to be had particularly courtesy of Horak. However the humour gets a bit stale. I mean how often can an audience laugh at Willy’s poor hearing and her penchant for bringing Frank and Walker items like bouillon cubes instead of sugar or a sandwich with a rubber-glove filling?

I have to confess I was actually relieved when the curtain went down as my ears could take a rest from Frank’s never-ending chatter — even though it was peppered with clever observations about life (I think) — and I could stop fighting to make sense of what I was seeing.