End Days

By Deborah Zoe LauferEndDays

Directed by Henry Godinez

At the Windy City Playhouse, Chicago

It’s the end of the world…Maybe

Upon entering the new Equity-based Windy City Playhouse at 3014 W. Irving Park, Chicago, one can’t be other than impressed with the size and opulence of this space. The lobby has comfortable couches and chairs, there is a fully stocked bar, and the entrance boasts a large neon sign with two burning torches to light the way. Upon entering the performance space, we are equally impressed with the theatre. It has 6,900  square feet on two levels with a 25-foot-high ceiling and a 50-foot wide, wall-to-wall lighting grid. Laid out (for this show) as a runway  configuration, seating 130 with leather swivel chairs and drink tables plus rows of comfortable chairs, the theatre is designed for patron comforts with ample space yet fine sight lines. 

windycity lobby
Windy City Playhouse lobby

This night club layout works fine with several mini-bars in the theatre to quench your every thirst before and during the intermission. Adorning with enough washrooms for men and women, we even get lovely music there. A visit to this wonderful space sets a high standard for storefront theatres. This wonderful space is huge, smartly planned while being the most patron-friendly theatre space imaginable.

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The Windy City Playhouse opens this lovely new space with a comic drama, End Days directed by Henry Godinez with three veteran Equity talents. This quirky play is a bold choice sending the message that this company is willing to stretch the bounds of theatre. That is refreshing. Playwright Deborah Zoe Laufer finds a way to blend Christian fanaticism and the aftermath of 911  into a humorous smart play. 

End Days is a comedy about one family’s adventure to find faith and renewal. Sylvia Stein (Tina Gluschenko), once a Jewish atheist, now a “born again” Evangelical Christian and Rapture believer, speaks to and sees Jesus (Steven Strafford in white robe and crown of thorns upon his long hair). Sylvia is obsessed with spreading the word about the Rapture (the end of the world). Arthur Stein (the likeable everyman Keith Kupferer) is a perpetual sleepy man disillusioned by the 911 attack that killed 65 of his colleagues. He hasn’t gotten out of his pajamas in weeks. Rachel Stein (Sari Sanchez) is the cynical atheistic teen ‘goth’ girl in white face who scorns her mother’s religious fanaticism. She believes in science and she screams at her parents often.

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We meet Nelson Steinberg (the delightful nerdy Stephen Cefalu, Jr.), a teen boy whose identify crisis includes dressing in a white Elvis jumpsuit while always carrying a guitar. His school mates constantly harass him. Nelson is a affable and positive fellow who pines for Rachel on first sight and befriends Arthur in a series of comic scenes. This kitchen sink comedy skillfully blends pokes at religious fanaticism as it shows that when in personal crisis, we tend to escape into blindly following extremist beliefs. Sylvia’s personal faith is thrust upon her husband and her unwilling daughter. 
We witness Sylvia seeing Jesus personified on stage. Steven Strafford plays Jesus effective with a few winks and gestures. Nelson is the charming, big-hearted teen who wins Rachel, helps Arthur cope, and gives Sylvia the benefit of the doubt as to the validity of the coming Rapture. This is a star-making role for Stephen Cefalu . He exudes charm, terrific comedic timing, and sincerity. His natural warmth and truthfulness has a healing tone through the laughter he garners. 
eday113
Without revealing too much, let me say that playwright Deborah Zoe Laufer’s script is a sit-com that contains a surprising ending that is both plausible and smart. This show intelligently, with loads of wit, pokes at religious fanaticism as a means to heal our personal wounds. Laufer suggests a more human source of renewal and faith to fill our needs. Without being ‘preachy’ or condescending, End Days unfolds as a funny look at the role of faith in human relations. This show is cute and healing. Indeed it sends Elvis to the rescue.

 Recommended

Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date of Review: March 23, 2015

For more info checkout the End Days page at theatreinchicago.com

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Windy City Playhouse

 

At the Windy City Playhouse, 3014 W. Irving Park, Chicago, IL,  call 773-891-8985, www.windycityplayhouse.com, tickets $2- – $45, Wednesdays & Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Fridays & Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at alternating at 3 or 5pm with occasional Saturday matinees, running time is 2 hours, 15  minutes with intermission, through April 26, 2015

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Cafe Beograd

2933-39 West Irving Park Road, Chicago, IL 60618, United States

Serbian cafe & market for sweet & savory fare from the old country in a casual, tin-ceilinged space.

beogradchicago.com

(773) 478-7575


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Mi Ciudad Su Restaurante

3041 W Irving Park Rd, Chicago, IL 60618, United States

Casual restaurant serving a traditional selection of Ecuadorian dishes, with karaoke nights.

http://places.singleplatform.com/mi-ciudad-restaurante/menu?ref=google

(773) 866-2066


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Tano's Pizzeria

3038 E Irving Park Rd, Chicago, IL 60618

Chill, compact pizzeria turning out thick- & thin-crust specialty pies, classic pastas & salads.

tanoschicago.com

(773) 478-3070


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Windy City Playhouse

3014 W. Irving Park Road, chicago. IL. 60618