Some Things You Need to Know Before the World Ends (A Final Evening With the Illuminati) crosses the wires of sketch comedy and religion. But while the show does give off occasional sparks, it never truly ignites.
Presented as the last sermon of the delusional Reverend Eddie (Taylor Hanes), assisted by hunchbacked Brother Lawrence (Brandon Burk), Some Things turns Reverend Eddie’s judgmental gaze not just on sinners but also on the church itself, railing against the perceived absurdity and misogyny of Christianity while slyly offering a heartfelt affirmation of its promises of succor and fulfillment.
The show requires a quick-cutting, turn-on-a-dime pace as it switches between reality and delusion, firing off one-liners in both realms. It’s practically Commedia dell’arte in its physical comedy, satirical bits and asides. But this production misses on the timing and struggles with the physicality. The humor never snaps like it should.
Under Troy Heard’s direction the transitions drag the show to a standstill at times. The opening processional requires the actors to leave the set, walk to the back of the house and then turn around and come right back to the stage. It’s a lot of wasted activity that feels like it should either be filled with more lazzi (improvised comic dialogue and physical gags) or come from someplace else in the space. The timing in other bits, like Hanes playing a celestial bureaucrat processing Burk’s (channeling William H. Macy in Fargo) application to be a saint, also seemed off, never achieving the rapid-fire speed that could pile on jokes until they accumulate into a roar of laughter.
Hanes does well with Eddie’s torment, but that threatens to become his only character trait. It shuts down opportunities for a more clowning, physically comic portrayal, as Hanes shows he’s capable of in his St. Paul Lynde impression. A more precise physicality of a body at war with itself would offer a sharper comedic counterpoint for times when Eddie’s vitriol rises.
Burk fares better with the physicality, imbuing his crippled hunchback with a pleasing naivety and earnestness. His joy in discovering his body healed is infectious, and when it ends it’s both funny and poignant. And his delivery of Eddie’s last sermon offers hope to all, no matter the dogma. But there aren’t enough of these moments. The humor never reaches heretical levels—it’s funny, but not as funny as it could be.
Some Things You Need to Know Before the World Ends Through May 2; Thursday-Saturday, 7 p.m.; Sunday, 2 p.m.; $25. Onyx Theatre, 702-732-7225.