The world is apparently ending. Let’s dance!



The cast of Nothing Special Productions’ “The Armageddon Dance Party”

What would you do if the world was apparently ending? Make out in a stairwell? Repent? Eat bags of Doritos and Crunch ‘N’ Munch in the nude?

In David L. Williams’ dark comedy, The Armageddon Dance Party, you do just what the title suggests — invite some friends, friends of friends and a stranger or two, turn up the Talking Heads and throw a boozy dance party.

Nothing Special Productions demonstrated their ability to stage intense, bold dramas with The Rise and Fall of the Mad King of Scotland earlier this summer. Now, they’re represented by a clever, if long-winded, analysis of humans facing extension with Dance Party.

The setup is simple: a couple (Conor Burke and Anne E. Thompson, who’s giving a remarkable debut performance) learn the world is ending. They know it’s true because their friend (Jeff Kuryszwith) told them so. He wears a blazer and has a fancy British accent, so he must know what he’s talking about. The couple (I lost the program, so please pardon the lack of character names) decides to throw a party.

Soon, petty dramas unfold between partygoers (one couple decides to break up moments before the impending world doom, another fights over who’s the better kisser), major philosophical questions are raised (“When we all die, who will mourn for us?”) and copulation commences (I counted three times that a pair ran offstage to get it on one final time). As they each face their own mortality, the party goes off the tracks. Insecurities flare up into physical arguments, and long lists of things they will miss (music — specifically punk rock) and won’t miss (traffic jams, racism, NASCAR) are shared. Someone gets stabbed in the neck with a wine opener.

It’s amazing what we turn into when faced with death at our doorstep.

This is a smart (if overly speechifying) play, and the young cast (most of whom are making their Chicago debut) keeps up with the material quite well. I do have problems with basic elements of the play’s setup (televisions and cell phones seem nonexistent in the world of this play, even though it suggests it takes place in a typical, modern city setting), and the ending is WAY out there. I dislike the Gorilla Tango space for numerous reasons, but director Jack Dugan Carpenter has found a way to use it effectively. In fact, this is the most strongly directed piece I’ve seen at this venue.

“The Armageddon Dance Party” plays at the Gorilla Tango Theatre (1919 N. Milwaukee Ave.) Mondays August 2, 9, 16 and 23 at 7:30 p.m. More information here >

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