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Review: How to Survive an Apocalypse

Romantic comedy no disaster

Sebastien Archibald and Claire Hesselgrave in "How to Survive an Apocalypse" at the Firehall Arts Centre, June 3-11 - Photo: Emily Cooper

Sebastien Archibald and Claire Hesselgrave in “How to Survive an Apocalypse” at the Firehall Arts Centre, June 3-11 – Photo: Emily Cooper

Review by Max D’Ambrosio

A romantic comedy about preparing for a cataclysmic event could, in itself, be an impending disaster, but the latest production at the Firehall Arts Centre survives any critical prophecy.

New play from Jordan Hall

Written by Jordan Hall and directed by Katrina Dunn, How to Survive an Apocalypse chronicles the mid-20s crisis of driven magazine editor Jen (Claire Hesselgrave) and her husband Tim (Sebastien Archibald).

Jen’s new coworker Bruce (Zahf Paroo) and recently divorced friend Abby (Lindsey Angell) further complicate her stalling life. When Bruce introduces her to the world of survivalists and preppers, preparing for the impending Armageddon becomes Jen’s new obsession. However, it’s clear from the start that these seemingly impersonal, large-scale concerns may be masking something much deeper.

Set and props are uniformly lush: a hip modern apartment and office, as well as a woodland campsite. By the end, the lines between them are blurred and many additions and modifications are made, a whirlwind of props coming and going to illustrate Jen and Tim’s flirtation with prepper culture.

Clear choices in writing style, direction, and acting combine to form seamless characters with an iconic feel. Each character acts as a clear representative of several demographics, from social classes to personality types.

Laugh-out-loud witty

These performances perfectly encapsulate how those identities are perceived within society. Their thoughts and feelings are exaggerated (and hilarious), but feel just real enough for an audience to latch onto.

To that end, the writing is laugh-out-loud witty, punctuated with arresting nuggets of insight. A couple of lines near the end come off as slightly artificial and verge on a preachy summation. This is surprising, given the seamless integration of subtext into dialogue during the rest of the piece. Fortunately, things quickly pick up again in the final scene, delivering an open yet satisfying conclusion.

The bottom line

How to Survive an Apocalypse holds an eye-catching funhouse mirror up to individuals, relationships, and all of humanity. In showing our features taken to their extremes, the play slickly presents some much-needed perspective on the times we live in. Whether or not they turn out to be the end-times, it’s a point of view that is well worth seeing.

Check out our preview of the show

How to Survive an Apocalypse

June 2nd to 11th

Firehall Arts Centre

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