The end of the world as we know it

Early One Evening at the Rainbow Bar and Grille

From left, Shep (Kirk Gardner), Virginia (Lisa Caldwell) and Joe (David Ziebert) spend their last night on Earth at the Rainbow Bar and Grille.

From left, Shep (Kirk Gardner), Virginia (Lisa Caldwell) and Joe (David Ziebert) spend their last night on Earth at the Rainbow Bar and Grille.

Photo By David Robert

Hug High School Theater

2880 Sutro St.
Reno, NV 89512
Rated 3.0

Where will you be when the world finally destroys itself? In Reno Little Theater’s latest production, Early One Evening at the Rainbow Bar and Grille by Bruce Graham, the characters find themselves in a small-town bar, where they desperately seek to live their final moments to the fullest.

This refreshingly funny and original script follows seven characters over the course of one very crazy evening before the destruction of the world. At the center of the story is Shep (Kirk Gardner), a thoughtful but depressed bartender, who has just received an advance for the publication of his life’s work—a trashy novel about a muscular, handsome bartender who gets involved in various sultry romances. The play opens with Shep throwing darts at his advance check and wondering why his big break should come just as the world is about to end.

Roy (Doug Mishler) is a dimwitted but eager mechanic, who is hoping to make it to Disneyworld. Willy (Paul Dancer) is going berserk with a rifle, and there are rumors he has shot off his wife’s head. Bullard (Michael Peters) is an aluminum-siding salesman in search of a bomb shelter.

The women in the story provide romantic interest for Shep. The other Rainbow bartender, Shirley (Ellen Reiterman), has just looted the local jewelry store and decked herself out in diamonds. Virginia (Lisa Caldwell) is a physical education teacher, who decides to try all the things she has been missing: smoking, drinking and romance. The first act ends with the arrival of a mysterious stranger with a proposal that throws the group into confusion.

What exactly is causing the destruction of the world? Each character has his or her own theory: It could be the Chinese, or the Koreans, or maybe the Arabs, but nobody knows for sure. With total destruction only hours away, nothing in the world makes sense anymore. The only thing on TV is endless reruns of I Love Lucy, and animals are running loose in the streets after someone broke into the local pet shop and set them all free. This chaos forms a background for an unlikely romance that ultimately makes a whole lot of sense.

Director Gary Helmers has brought together a strong acting ensemble. The actors make bold, energetic choices, and the bigger they are, the funnier they seem to be. Paul Dancer’s out-of-control Willy is hilarious as he struts about the stage, taking charge with his rifle. In one of his many amusing moments, he aims his rifle at the stunned Bullard, demanding that he prove his American citizenship by answering the question, “Who is Ed McMahon?” In the role of Roy, Mishler is like a spark plug for the rest of the cast as he infuses high energy into all of his actions.

The actors are stronger when playing comedy. During serious moments, the energy seems to slip, and character motivations turn a little fuzzy. This dip in energy is especially palpable toward the end of the first act, when the gaps between lines grow longer, and the commitment seems to drop off.

Nonetheless, with its high energy, silly jokes and quirky characters at the end of their ropes, this off-beat comedy is sure to please.