Alternate Endings

Jonathan Price
SkyPilot Theatre Company
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Alternate Endings

Some say the world will end in fire, sone say in ice…; the late Jonathan Price does not limit himself to just two possible causes of destruction. Over a collection of ten comedy sketches, Alternate Endings offers a series of options for Armageddon.

Alternate Endings is an opportunity for half a dozen directors and a very large cast to bring Price’s satire to a wide audience via the screen. The format is generally the same for each sketch—in front of a static screen setting the scene (ranging from the Oval Office to a backyard), actors either direct a solo monologue to the audience or converse amongst themselves.

Inevitably, the play is fragmented; although one character re-occurs and there is a religious aspect to several of the sketches (angels are referenced more than once), the vignettes have little in common other than the grim theme.

The humour throughout is deadpan; only the obvious suspects attract satirical condemnation. The sketches are interrupted by speeches from a fundamentalist American President whose loathing of science and blind faith in religion and capitalism results in the launch of nuclear weapons. Unexpected prejudice prevents a devout Christian from accepting salvation when it is offered by someone who does not conform to his expectations.

Alternate Endings does not outstay its welcome. The shortest sketch, a one-joke monologue based on the concept of a climate change denier unable to accept reality and arguing Ohio was always underwater, makes its point and calls it a day.

While ambitious in scope, the play does not overlook the human aspect of destruction. The relationship between a Dr Frankenstein type scientist and his creation is surprisingly gentle, even regretful, in its depiction of an extreme example of self-preservation. Oncoming oblivion prompts one person to try making a contact with other people in a society which has become increasingly isolated. There is the suggestion a pandemic is brought about by a group of scientists trying a bit too hard to seduce each other. Makes a change from eating bats.

Alternate Endings swings from high concept to snide digs. A scientist is willing to accept an almost surreal idea as it offers a chance of contact with her late daughter. On the other hand, while movies based on Marvel comics might not be to everyone’s taste, it seems harsh to suggest they will cause the downfall of society (well, apart from The Eternals).

Despite the grim subject, at no point does Jonathan Price give in to despair. Although the play has an atmosphere of resignation, there is an optimistic undertone: a sense a life lived with the right person is worthwhile even if it ends prematurely.

Reviewer: David Cunningham