The End of Civilisation: A Strong Production of a Depressing Drama

Reviewed by Iris Winston

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Photo: Barb Gray.

The End of Civilization is about a middle-class couple’s last-ditch attempt at preservation. Harry Cape, downsized and out of work for more than two years, is at the end of his rope. His wife, Lily, is willing to do anything to save her house and lifestyle.

The Capes have checked into a budget motel — The End of Civilization is the third of six plays in George F. Walker’s 1997 Suburban Motel series — and left their children in the care of Lily’s sister, while Harry tries one last time to find work.

From here, in a jumbled, but nevertheless clear, timeline, The End of Civilization presents the reasons for Harry’s descent into insane and unreasonable behaviour and Lily’s amazingly fast jump into the world’s oldest profession, after being befriended by Sandy, the prostitute in the next motel room.

Two homicide detectives, one a macho caricature, the other descending into smiling madness in a weak reflection of Harry’s actions, are there to investigate the suspected crimes.

All conversation is liberally peppered with F-bombs, to a pointless and irritating level. Perhaps the purpose is to demonstrate that Sandy — the character whose actions are the most reasoned and believable — has the cleanest mouth of the group. However, more often, the effect is to create distance and lessen sympathy for Harry’s hopelessness and Lily’s resorting to selling out and selling herself.

As directed by Mary Ellis in the Same Day Theatre production, the desperation of the Capes is clear, even if George F. Walker’s script does not fully justify Lily’s actions.

It is much easier to understand how Harry’s identity was entwined with his career and how repeated rejection has undermined his faith in a society that has broken the rules. As Harry, David Frisch rocks back and forth among anger, guilt, anxiety and hopelessness, while Julie Le Gal, as Lily, moves between supporting her husband and shrugging off his despair. While not totally convincing throughout, her solo, silent sequence in the last few minutes is remarkable.

As the two cops, Geoff McBride and Brad Long present a bad cop/good cop scenario with quirks. McBride is the strutting professional. Long is lovesick, drunk and in a downward spiral. Meanwhile Catriona Leger is tough, almost jolly and sensible as the “guiding angel” prostitute.

Altogether, a strong production of a depressing drama.

The Same Day Theatre production of The End of Civilization continues at the Gladstone to May 31.

The End of Civilization

By George F. Walker

A Same Day Theatre production.

Director: Mary Ellis

Set: Margaret Coderre-Williams

Lighting: Jingwei Zhang supervised by Marin Conboy. ​

Composition and sound: Steven Lafond

Costumes: Vanessa Imeson

Cast:

Harry Cape…………………………………..David Frisch

Lily Cape…………………………………….Julie Le Gal

Sandy………………………………………..Catriona Leger

Donny Deveraux…………………………….Brad Long

Max Malone………………………………….Geoff McBride


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