Practical Evil

When a violent encounter with a creepy, conservative conspiracy theorist results in his death, a group of liberal master’s students decide to better the world by killing those they deem to be a potential danger. . . which happens to be those who disagree with their way of thinking.  This is The Last Supper and it is currently playing at Bellevue Little Theatre under the auspices of SNAP! Productions.

After two years, SNAP! returns to live theatre with a pretty dark and disturbing play by Dan Rosen.  This had actually been a movie and is a combination of a grislier version of Arsenic and Old Lace and the living out of the question, “Would you kill a young Hitler when he was innocent in order the prevent the horrible atrocities he would later commit?”  Rosen has a good grip on the current political climate and his play is actually an interesting commentary on the dangers of political extremism across all spectrums.

That being said, the script is weakened a bit by its lack of character development, dearth of sympathetic characters, and an ambiguous ending (though this becomes less so if you follow the clues.  Here’s a hint.  They’re all visual, so pay close attention.  Happy hunting!)

Todd Brooks has a tremendous sense of atmosphere as he bookends the play between a pair of thunderstorms which well represent the violence of the material and the moment.  He also does an excellent job with the subtlety of the final scene.  Brooks also has led his performers to fairly effective performances, especially with the victims who are the most compelling characters in the show.

Strong ensemble performances come from Dennis Stessman who exudes a cold and palpable menace as the creepy truck driver who gets the victim train going.  Don Harris provides some needed levity as the sheriff.  Randy Wallace is oblivious to his own hypocrisy as the man of God who has a horribly warped view on the horror of AIDS and perceives homosexuality as a disease.  Chloe Irwin is a blend of naivete and arrogance as a high schooler suing her school due to a belief that mandatory sex education is an invasion of her privacy.

As I stated earlier, there is a great lack of character development in the show.  As such, it’s hard to delineate the performances of the primary characters as they simply are what they are.  The only thing that seems to differentiate them is their degree of bloodlust.  The worst of them is willing to kill at the drop of a hat while the best of them comes to realize just how monstrous the group has become.

Roz Parr’s Jude is the primary character that gets the most character development.  At first, she is keen to get in on the killings and is one of the first to suggest eliminating those who don’t adhere to the groupthink.  But she is also the one who truly realizes how corrupted they have become through their heinous acts.  Parr really shines when the focus isn’t on her as her visceral reactions show how appalled and horrified she has become as the murders get easier, but the “crimes” justifying them get significantly minor.

Chris Scott does exemplary work with Norman Arbuthnot.  A conservative pundit in the vein of Tucker Carlson or Sean Hannity, Scott’s Arbuthnot is used primarily in interstitials promulgating more and more outlandish bilge until a chance meeting leads to him having dinner with the students where he seems to be a much more reasonable person.  He freely admits that a lot of what he says is just schtick to get attention onto a subject he cares about and almost convinces the students that there is room for differing opinions.  But just when he has you convinced he’s decent, he pulls an act that shows he fully buys his own hype which Scott handles with smarmy aplomb.

Sarah Kolcke has designed a very warm and welcoming home with a comfortable living room and kitchen which serves as a stellar counterpoint to its cold occupants.  Joey Lorincz should win an award for these lights especially with the lightning, the use of shadow, and use of spotlights on silent actors.  Daena Schweiger does some nifty A/V work with the use of the intros for the shows of several conservative pundits as well as her original creation of an intro for Arbuthnot’s show.  Connie Lee’s costumes are natural and suitable to the characters.

Act I felt pretty rough and almost like a rehearsal.  Cue pickups were very loose and the acting in the aftermath of the first death lacked a needed shock and intensity.  In Act II, the conversations felt a lot more natural and in tune with the ever-increasing stakes of the situations.

In the end this show takes a pretty absurdist look at the dangers of extreme political thought, but it also points out the very real threat posed by those who close their minds instead of truly opening up to discuss and debate our differences in order to reach a place of true understanding.

The Last Supper plays at Bellevue Little Theatre under SNAP!’s auspices through July 24.  Showtimes are 7:30pm Thursday and Friday and Sunday at 2pm.  Tickets start at $30 and can be purchased at the BLT Box Office or by visiting www.snapproductions.com.  Due to strong language and mature subject matter, this show is not suitable for children.  Bellevue Little Theatre is located at 203 W Mission St in Bellevue, NE.

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