THE END OF CIVILIZATION by George F. Walker, directed by Ken Gass, with Ron White, David Ferry, Brenda Bazinet, Dennis O'Connor and Jody Stevens. Runs in rep to Jun 12. $25-$34, Sun mat pwyc-$20. 125 Bathurst. 416-504-9971. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Of all the Suburban Motel plays, The End Of Civilization always struck me as the bleakest and most despairing. It's not just the title. There are fewer laughs. And in a way, its middle-class characters are most like the people who might, say, subscribe to the Factory Theatre season. In better times, that is.
Henry ( Dennis O'Connor ) has been downsized from his corporate job, and moves into the familiar motel room, nice luggage in hand, with his wife Lily ( Brenda Bazinet , reprising the role she originated in 1998). The kids are with relatives. They're living here until Henry finds a job. It's been a while, though.
"It's like The Grapes Of Wrath out there," he tells Lily, a survivor who - when Henry disappears - finds work of her own, thanks to friendly hooker Sandy ( Jody Stevens ) in the motel room next door.
Soon, cops Donnie ( David Ferry ) and Max ( Ron White ) are investigating a series of murders of other men who've been applying for the same jobs as Henry. A coincidence? Or has Henry had enough?
Walker plays cleverly with time in revealing the work's mysteries. The extended final scene shows the couple entering the room for the first time, and the terrific Bazinet, originally nominated for a Dora Award, communicates so much with her we've-come- to-this look. The seeds of their downfall are planted in this scene; their tragedy lies in not communicating and supporting each other, even over something as trivial as packing the right clothes in a suitcase.
Ferry and White play their contrasting cops with gusto - there were some second-night jitters during the performance I attended. And while I miss the original Henry, Michael Healey - something about his voice communicates defeat - O'Connor captures the character's desperation and anger, as well as the pride. When he asks Max to imagine him in his earlier days, you believe him. He was a somebody.