With Barbeque Apocalypse, Out of Pocket Productions Explores the End of the World
You could say that Barbeque Apocalypse-- currently running at Rochester's MuCCC (Multi-Use Community Cultural Center) --is your run-of-the-mill suburban millennial slasher play, just another post-apocalyptic Neil Simon/Mad Max cocktail. Move along, nothing to see here, right?
If that backdrop doesn't tickle your curiosity, would you believe that playwright Matt Lyle also managed to weave in themes of media consumption, group behavior, and even critiques of the curated suburban life that many of us live? It's a wild, psychotic, tremendously fun play brought to life by Out of Pocket Productions, one of Rochester's many talented indie theatre troupes.
Barbeque Apocalypse, a play presented in two acts (pre and post apocalypse), begins with a seemingly regular backyard cookout hosted by young couple Deb (Abby DeVuyst) and Mike (Daniel Hart). They're your prototypical millennial couple; Mike the goofy, loveable creative writing major who can't operate a lawn mower, Deb the high-strung young housewife consumed with making a good impression. They're soon joined by Win (Jason Rugg), the sunglass-wearing megadouche and his girlfriend Glory (Courtney Weather), the obnoxiously attractive yet aggressively annoying bombshell dancer. Also joining the shindig are Ash (Eric Lefler), the phone-obsessed husband of Lulu (Amy Martin), a combative quasi-alcoholic.
Act I focuses on their relationships and group dynamic as they squabble over typical millennial stuff: iPhones, politics, who's pregnant (or has just put on weight), and even a brief physical altercation. The act ends moments before the apocalyptic event, with Act II beginning on the same porch, one year post-apocalypse as the gang gathers again for another backyard cookout, this time smeared in dirt and blood, with cooked roadkill for dinner, and dusty ham radios instead of iPhones; basically, all the physical signs that they're living a post-apocalyptic life. The second half of the show contrasts the first as we see how people's basic instincts and interpersonal behavior change--and more tellingly, how they don't change--even amid the end of the world.
Alongside the splatters of blood, tattered clothes, and grilled raccoon, the audience is presented with a pretty stark critique of suburban America, one of the many facets of the show that director Wayne Alan Dunbar found attractive. "When I first read the show, I thought of 'Leave it to Beaver'; clean, pristine living, but inside the house you don't know what's happening".
Dunbar also feels blessed to have chosen the perfect cast to play this cohort of personalities. "The cast has such a great chemistry together, and they had that at audition", he says. "We said 'that's the cast right there.'"
Chemistry they certainly have, and plenty of it. Not only do these seven actors make such believable couples and friends, they've also maximized the oddities of their individual characters. Mike the fun-loving goon, Win the cocky asshat, Lulu the perpetual wielder of side-eye. They're people we all have in our life, whose traits are immutable, even after the doomsday. It's a tribute to both their acting talent and Dubar's directorial acumen.
I had no idea what to expect when entering the MuCCC to see Barbeque Apocalypse; I was somewhere between pessimistic and cautiously intrigued. What I DIDN'T expect was insanity, uproarious laughter, and, shockingly, to still be thinking about the play hours and days later.
Barbeque Apocalypse is being presented by Out of Pocket Productions at the MuCCC. Tonight is your last chance to see this madcap, outrageous production. For tickets and more information, click here.