BLOOM by Guillermo Verdecchia (Modern Times Stage). At Buddies in Bad Times (12 Alexander). Runs to April 8. $18-$30. buddiesinbadtimes.com..
Back in January, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists advanced their famous Doomsday Clock, meant to represent the likelihood of global catastrophe, to two minutes to midnight, the closest its been since 1953. Perfect timing then, for a chilling remount of Guillermo Verdecchias 2006 post-apocalyptic vision that stakes out territory between Samuel Becketts Endgame and Cormac McCarthys The Road.
Part absurdist warning, part gritty exploration of human nature in the face of hopelessness, the story focuses on a pair of survivors eking out a bleak existence in a country home outside a ruined city. Here, Gerontion (Peter Farbridge), a bitter but professorial older man confined to a wheelchair and slowly going blind, has raised a young boy (Liz Peterson) he discovered as a baby during the initial destruction.
Much of their back-and-forth involves Gerontion discussing old books from his vast library and responding to questions about what life was like beforehand, but soon the boy develops wanderlust, threatening their setup. Verdecchia nicely contrasts Gerontion, in declining health and hopelessly nostalgic for the old order, with the boy who has grown up knowing only the bleak new reality. These scenes are also interspersed with flashbacks in which Gerontion is haunted by visions of his former life with a woman named Marie (Kim Nelson), which feature eerie projections.
Director Soheil Parsa conjures a bone-chilling vision of everyday life reduced to mere survival under deprivation, uncertainty and fear, but tempers this with touching moments of levity, love and hope. Intriguing in Anahita Dehbonehies initially sparse set design are the collection of tall shelves draped in fabric. They are unveiled at different moments to reveal symbolically potent contents. Thomas Ryder Paynes sound design supplies distressing hints of the state of affairs outside the house with staticky radio chatter and periodically, the overwhelming screech of fighter jets passing overhead.
Inspired by T.S. Eliots The Waste Land, Verdecchias script also captures the Cold War reading of the final lines of another one of Eliots famous poems, The Hollow Men: This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper.
The haunting and powerful question lingering in the background of Bloom is whether we are witnessing an end or a new beginning.