Play review: After the End at Divadlo Na Prádle

A two-person play set in a nuclear shelter raises some timely issues

Most people would welcome having a friend with a fallout shelter in case of a nuclear attack of some kind. But that is not the case in After the End, a 2005 play by Dennis Kelly.

The two-person play has a short run in Prague at Divadlo Na Prádle, with two shows remaining at Sept 21 and 22 at 7 pm.

The play is part of the in-yer-face theater movement, which began in the UK in the 1990s. These plays try to challenge the viewer's comfort zone, and are a response to the often saccharine musical productions that been flooding the stages recently.

Local actors Karel Heřmánek, Jr., and Victoria Hogan play Mark and Louise, who apparently work together. Mark is a bit on the paranoid side, and has bought a flat that had a bomb shelter included.

The play starts with Mark in his shelter describing some event that has caused massive carnage, leaving dead bodies and flames everywhere.

Surprisingly, he is not alone. At some point he rescued Louise, but her memory of the events is rather fuzzy. She and others from work were drinking, and she seems to have blacked out, not an unusual occurrence for her.

Mark is one of those odd people at work who nobody likes. He apparently had a tendency to fly off the handle with bizarre conspiracy theories that nobody was interested in and regarded everyone with paranoid suspicion.

Louise is the opposite. She likes to have good times with her colleagues but tends to be very self-centered and judgmental.

Locked together, they don't make a good team. The 90 minutes of After the End sees then at odds over what to do. There is also an uncomfortable atmosphere, as Mark increasingly drops hints that expects something romantic to develop. The play is full of adult themes, situations and language.

Karel Heřmánek, Jr., sporting a beard, presents a Mark who is barely holding himself together. He makes inappropriate comments and goes into his paranoid theories. He has notions about rationing and schedules.

Victoria Hogan doesn't make a submissive character out of Louise. The tendency would be for someone to be grateful at being saved from a nuclear attack, but Louise bathes in the drinking water instead and criticizes Mark's every move.

Both actors have extensive experience from local acting troupes including Prague Shakespeare Company and Blood, Love and Rhetoric. They get behind the challenging material, exposing their vulnerable characters.

The two-person play is perfect for a low-budget production. A few lights and sound effects added to the set of cast-off furniture and canned food creates a convincing atmosphere.

The play is about the interaction of two trapped people, and not about fancy décor, smoke and mirrors.

After the End is presented by Alabaster Cat, a relatively new company that is interested in modern drama. The play is presented in cooperation with Prague Shakespeare Company, and uses some of the same actors and technical staff, so the productions so far have all been highly professional.

The two main people behind Alabaster Cat, Derek DeWitt and Debbie Wilson DeWitt, co-directed the play and kept it lean and tense until the very end.

With world politics the way they are now, the play has become quite topical and it's “in-yer-face” style will give people lots to argue about after the play is over, especially the depiction of the female character and her responses to situations.

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