To Be or Not to Be-that literally was the question.
LIVE! From the Last Night of My Life by Wayne Rawley, was not only the most amusing show I have seen in a long time but also the most profoundly tragic as it dealt with the very basic question of existence: should I keep living or should I put an end to everything. Both the Theatre 22’s production and the script itself were masterpieces, which simultaneously served to enlighten the audience and provide the best psycho-therapy there is: laughter.
Doug Sample, is a 20-something Everyman; the person all of us dreaded becoming in high school-someone who did not “live up to their potential.” A former computer whiz, who spent at least some time in college, by 1999 at the high of the dot com explosion, is stuck not only in a dead-end low-paying job, as a convenience store cashier, but is in a very serious clinical depression. And, as he amusingly tell us, is highly resistant to any of the available cures-he’s tried them all. I would guess that he is also under the age of 26, which is when our brains fully develop, and most of us out grow our adolescent angst.
Arriving at the graveyard shift with a backpack containing a loaded pistol, he spends the time preparing himself for his own suicide. In between dealing with an eccentric bunch of customers who come into his store, he has imaginary conversations with real people, such as his mother and ex-girlfriends as well as real conversations with some friends and of course his customers. All in front of the security cameras!!!!!!!!
For some strange inexplicable reason for a former high school computer geek, he is haunted by the coolness of John Travolta’s character Danny Zukko, in the movie Grease. When Doug struggles with whether to go through with his suicide, Danny Zukko, played by Jason Sharp, appears as his subconscious, to argue that it would be just too uncool. Ryan Higgins, as Doug Sample, delivered a virtuoso performance with impeccable comic timing; like all great comedic geniuses he could make the audience both laugh and cry, while enlightening us about the devastating effects of depression.
The ensemble cast of Alyson Bedford, Jason Sharp, Katie Driscoll, James Weidman, Heather Gautschi, Ashley Bagwell, Samie Spring Detzer and Corey D. McDaniel, were simply superb. They all played four or five bit parts as old friends, relatives, customers (of the highly eccentric variety)
Although the play took place in the studio space, it had a highly sophisticated effective set by Michael Mowery; it looked exactly like a convenience store at a gas-station. However, the director-the playwright himself Wayne Rawley, in keeping with some of the surreal conversations our depressed hero has, used the set in extremely creative ways by having various characters pop in and out of the refrigerated cabinets. Jesse McNeece’s sound effects added an interesting leit-motif to the insightful dialogue, punctuating Doug’s wimpiness with a matcho ad for beer. Highlighting the eccentricities of the customers were wonderful costumes by Julia Evanovich.
My only criticism of the play was that it was too long. Act I was 80 minutes long, and Act II was 50 minutes; it needs some cuts, especially in the exposition, before it goes to New York, London, Paris, Los Angles, San Francisco, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Vienna, Berlin and of course Tokyo.( where it is sorely needed)
To be frank, I am very surprised that it has only had one other production-here in Seattle at Theatre Schmeater in 2011. Wayne Rawley is a comedic and philosophical genius who deserves not only a huge success but a huge dose of that elusive human emotion: happiness.
LIVE! Last Night of My Life. by Wayne Rawley. Theatre 22, at 12th Ave Arts. 1620-12th Ave, Capitol Hill, Seattle 19122. Thurs. Fri. Sat at 8 pm, Sun Apr. 12 at 2 pm, PWYC Tues. Apr. 14. 8 pm. Ends April 18 ( Parking Difficult, SCCC at Pike and Harvard $5.00) Tickets http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/907030 info. www.theatre22.org