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End Days deals with Elvis and Jesus

BY JOSIE JONES | JANUARY 28, 2010 7:30 AM

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If you thought seeing Elvis on the same stage as a Goth and an immobilized father could only happen in daydreams, think again.

End Days, Riverside Theatre’s current production, is a romantic comedy with an array of strange characters.

The play will take the stage at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Riverside Theatre, 213 N. Gilbert St. End Days will run through Feb. 21 with Friday and Saturday shows at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday shows at 2 p.m.

Admission ranges from $12 to $26.

The play has a cast of five and an interesting plot. Sixteen-year-old Rachel Stein dresses in all black and hates, well, everything. Her father, Arthur, is filled with so much regret and remorse for having survived 9/11 that he won’t change out of his pajamas. Sylvia, her mother, recently embarked on a personal relationship with Jesus, and her new neighbor is a 16-year-old Elvis impersonator who has completely fallen for her. Rachel is having a bad year.

“[The characters] all have their annoying sides, and they all have their lovable sides,” director Bruce Wheaton said. “Kind of like every group of friends, right?”

Actor Jim VanValen was easily able get into character of Arthur because of the challenges he works to overcome in the play.

“I think there is so much in the humanity of each of [the characters] that it’s easy for an actor to tap into them,” he said. “And for actors to want to tell their stories.”

While End Days does contain some adult language, the director hopes it also offers an engaging story. Wheaton describes the two-hour play as “both entertaining and probably a bit stimulating.”

The ushers even interact with the cast, playing the bullies at school and throwing wadded-up milk cartons at a cast member.

Perhaps the ushers are required to be interactive because of the small stage at Riverside. The set of End Days is mainly devoted to two rooms, the kitchen and living room, inside the Stein family’s condo. All other scenes are performed on a mini stage on either side of the center stage in front of a plain curtain. Small props, such as a few lockers, chairs and signs, help set the scene.

While the play is a light-hearted romantic comedy, it is also about a family connecting to what is really important in life — and that is ultimately each other, VanValen said.

“I find that the story is very moving in a way [that] life challenges us to risk being vulnerable and open to the people that matter the most to us,” the actor said. “I think that that can be scary and risky at times, but the rewards of such relationships are priceless.”

End Days is able to balance two sides of life with its moments of humor and tragedy, something that VanValen thinks is wonderful.

“I think that perhaps we can get caught up in worries about the future and regrets about the past that we miss the moment of now,” he said. “[End Days] serves as a reminder to the characters, and even perhaps those that come to see it, that now is really all we have.”


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