Was H. apocalyptus supposed to be funny? | Theater | Charleston City Paper

Was H. apocalyptus supposed to be funny? 

This reviewer is unsure

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At first, I thought the reason why I did not enjoy H. apocalyptus was because I didn't really get it.

But I did get it. I get that it was taking place in another reality, four years removed from the end of the world. I get that the reason why the actors were talking in broken sentences was because humanity practically no longer existed, and when you haven't been having conversations, it's hard to remember proper language. And there was an interesting tribal quality to the performance, evidence by the awkward opening scene where Jed (Paul Jacques Kaufmann), Lenora-Fontaine (Monica Wyche), and Kira (E.G. Heard) chant and sing together. I get that. And I liked that they tried. And the concept of this show — something has turned human beings into zombies and, as far as we can tell, probably the three last people on earth are trapped in a waterside sanctuary in Key West — is definitely unique.

In the program, playwright Dean Poyner says that "In the future, this is what Old Testament stories will sound like." I guess that means they'll sound like actors loudly reciting lines to each other in a way that didn't really come off as conversational. This play takes place during the end of the world. There's zombies, and if they don't kill you, there's a chemical in the air that will. I also think that people drink blood to survive, but I'm not 100 percent sure on that one. It could have just been a metaphor. Lenora-Fontaine takes shelter in a bar, which Jed soon comes upon. Later, Kira washes up on shore; Jed is instantly smitten, and Lenora-Fontaine is instantly wary. The characters learn about each other and debate whether or not they should repopulate the earth. Interactive scenes are cut by long monologues, detailing how the characters ended up there.

Apparently, everything in the world went to shit when Justin Bieber III was president. Yes, you read that right. And therein lies the problem with this show. Is the Salvage Company trying to be serious? Or is the show meant to be farcical? When Jed says, "I fucked a zombie once," are we supposed to feel sympathetic for how isolated he feels or are we allowed to giggle at the ridiculousness of such a blunt statement? Or when Jed gives a monologue about his struggles for survival, but then Kira and Lenora-Fontaine start jogging awkwardly in place beside him to signify the running they've all had to do, what is the natural way to react?

I blame the dude sitting behind me. OK, yes, I laughed at inappropriate times. And there were other instances in the play that the audience interpreted as jokes that, honestly, may not have been jokes, but they seemed like jokes. But when that jerk behind me starts cracking up and adding in sound effects (I heard both a "bow chicka wah wah" and a "pop" noise come from him, the latter when one of the character's kills something), it's hard to keep a straight face, even when you have the best of intentions. And keep in mind that this guy paid money to be there. I also blame the woman next to me, who, try though she did, totally lost it at one point and had to put her head between her knees during a part that was definitely not meant to be funny.

I did really enjoy Heard as Kira. She possessed the childlike cluelessness required to make her character believable, and I liked her speeches the best. There were some stumbles, especially a good 30 seconds where it seemed like they all said their lines too early. There may have been more bumps, but because of the way the lines were read it's hard to tell.

Then, even with all of this, which I could probably forgive, the two female actors grab a pair of dolls and start acting from the perspective of these babies, in utero — yes, fetuses — complete with squeaky voices and chanting and spinning in a scene that seemed like it would never end. I think even the most serious members of the audience couldn't keep it together at that point.

I also couldn't decide if the show was misogynistic, especially when the strong, independent Lenora-Fontaine says one minute that the women can survive on their own and then yells at Jed the next for being too scared to take care of his ladies, or when Jed makes her grab his crotch and swear she won't turn on him and Kira. And then, for good measure, Jed declares that he is more of a man than Jesus, because he has the ability to knock women up. So add some sacrilege on top of everything else, and what can I say? You be the judge.

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