Review JUDGMENT DAY an Apocalypse of Laughter
When it comes to comedy, playwright Maria S. Schlatter comes from hearty stock; her father George Schlatter, was co-creator of the revolutionary Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In and her mother, Jolene Brand, was a regular on the equally revolutionary Ernie Kovacs Show.
Schlatter may not be starting any revolutions with her new one-man, eight-character comedy, Judgment Day, now being presented as part of the New York International Fringe Festival, but she and her collaborators have delivered a good ol' 85-minute gag-fest, full of sock-o laughs and fun.
"Is it really Judgment Day? You be the judge," croons a slickly baritoned television news anchor in Sioux Falls, South Dakota ninety minutes before the midnight hour that has been predicted to bring the Apocalypse. (Exactly which time zone's midnight hour is a bit sketchy.) His audience sitting at home will get a full report following the network's broadcast of the big game, but when the players keep going into repeated overtimes, all he can do is cut in occasionally with promos reminding them that full details of possible world destruction will come after the contest.
The news anchor, and everyone else shown dealing with the grimly ticking clock, is played with crackling comic verve by Donald Corren, who you may recall as the frustrated pianist trying to get Florence Foster Jenkins to sing in tune in Souvenir. Under Michael Schwartz's direction, Corren glides swiftly through contrasting characters with detailed alacrity. Some appear several times throughout the piece, being given a chance to evolve into poignant moments, while others make singular, though memorable appearances.
An abrasive Brooklynite with severe anger issues spends what could be his final hour squeezing in one last therapy session ("I even did 'Music and Dance' therapy where the guy made me pick a piece music and 'choreograph the pain around my mother.' I picked The Nutcracker. He told me to get out.") while on the Upper East Side, a wheelchair-bound matron tells her caged bird all about how her daughter is a complete disappointment.
A creepy pageant dad in the south prepares his little girl for what he imagines to be the biggest pageant of them all ("Second place in God's Kingdom is HELL.") while a British socialite regales her chums at a cocktail party with the details of her latest cosmetic surgery done on her vagina. ("I met with a doctor who told me that he could give me the vagina of 14 year old. Well, I haven't had the vagina of 14 year old since I was 12.")
A Russian cabbie looks at the second coming with Zen-like philosophy while a nerdy writer contemplates the world ending before he's fulfilled his destiny to write the Great American Novel.
The hilarious penultimate piece has a homophobic cult leader telling his followers of his dream to sabotage the Gay Pride Parade in details that keep slipping into homoerotic imagery.
Schlatter's humor is packed with vaudevillian one-liners; often crude ("Remember back in the day when the only second coming was with a really talented call girl?") but consistently funny. Judgment Day may not provide you with any profound insight as to the meaning of life, but it does leave 'em laughing.