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Review: PW play offers absurd look at entrance to paradise

Monday, March 20, 2006

“Eternity Placement Opportunity” recounts the stories of five unique candidates called upon for an eternal spot in heaven. Production Workshop’s latest performance, directed by Brendan Pelsue ’08, carries the audience through a fast-paced, innovative comedy rich with eccentricities in only 20 minutes. The play’s fine-tuned rhythm and relentless humor sends the audience into delirious amusement.

The production, written by Rory and Brendan Pelsue, opens on an empty stage with the sound of tearing tape punctuating the background. A custodian appears and slowly crosses the stage, applying thick red tape across the floor. Halfway across the stage, he pauses, sneers at the audience and then resumes.

Two exceedingly uninterested employees, Blanche and Bill (Christina Perkins ’08 and Adam Keller ‘06.5), follow the custodian with a large orange box, setting the scene for the Eternity Placement Opportunity Incorporation. Within the box is an audio instruction tape.

“The following is a brief disclaimer: Hello, and welcome to your final judgment,” Blanche announces matter-of-factly to the audience, reading from a “Final Judgment” brochure. She calls out five names: Simon Putrane (Henry Clarendon ’06), Gal Rivers (Kori Schulman ’08), Vicki Prouess (Rachel Cronin ’08), Edith McDune (Lizzie Vieh ’07) and Jeff Claxton (Kurt Roediger ’07). The lanky, gum-chewing Bill nonchalantly beckons the puzzled nominees behind the red line.

To gain entrance to the heavenly kingdom, each must follow the audiotape’s instruction: “Tell the story of a negative experience you have had and are generally unwilling to share with others.”

Thus, each character recounts colorful excerpts of embarrassing experiences. Simon Putrane narrates his late return to a whorehouse he frequented as a youth. Gal Rivers is a mascara-smeared, destitute woman who once performed a provocative song-and-dance routine, called “Busted,” in front of her Church congregation.

Vicky Prouess, who is relatively naive and obnoxious, recalls a trivial incident in a parking lot. This leads to one of the funniest and most surprising moments in the play, when a shrill scream suddenly and unexpectedly pierces the room. What ensues is a lightning-quick appearance of a short-skirted, hysterical woman who splatters the contents of a trashcan all over the floor before being wrestled off-stage by her husband.

The audience had just a few moments to comprehend what had happened before the screams resounded again from offstage, provoking another wave of laughter.

The audience’s uproar and the play’s tension culminate with Edith McDune, an “emotional goal counselor” who is a playwright in her spare time. She possesses a fierce stare and overdone graveness, rapidly seducing the audience. The effect is doubled when she calls on three audience members to participate in the performance of one of the plays she has written. She distributes roles varying from an “emotionally troubled former drug-addict” to a presumably autobiographical character named Paula, who is also an emotional goal counselor.

This episode ends with Edith McDune kicking out one of the participants for his “poor performance,” once again eliciting laughter from the audience.

“Eternity Placement Opportunity” had only one dark spot: frustratingly, it lasted only 20 minutes.

Claxton’s story is omitted as Blanche shuts off the audiotape and the lights dim out inexorably over his whining figure caught between the white-bloused Bill and Blanche, shrieking one final “Goddamn it!” His final judgment has been pronounced: he shall not enter heaven.

The somewhat abrupt ending may leave the spectator wishing for more, with a stomach still aching from laughing so hard in the previous scenes.

In the end, the play gains more than it loses from this concise structure, which keeps audience members on the edge of their seats.

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