From February 23-26, Theatre UNB presented The Ends of the Earth, a play written by Morris Panych. Panych is a two-time winner of the Governor General Literary Award for Drama, and was joined by director Len Falkenstein, Director of Drama at UNB.
The Ends of the Earth tells the tragic story of Frank Gardener and Henry Walker, two average men whose fates become inexorably intertwined in the most bizarre of ways. Frank and Henry’s mounting fears lead them down a rabbit hole, with each man individually believing that the other is following his every move. The pair, frightened and perturbed, begin to follow a familiar pattern of chasing and avoiding, trusting and beguiling, discovering and being left in utter confusion.
With the right amount of humour mixed with a pinch of dark sarcasm, Falkenstein’s production was able to keep the audience on the edge of their seats. Wrapped inside the enclosed and intimate setting of Memorial Hall, I could almost feel the audience’s raised heartbeats. The audience’s body language was telling: someone’s foot tapping the ground out of nervousness; another student’s awkward laugh when a toy gun appeared too close for comfort; and another fellow struck silent when Frank said something that seemed to hit too close to home.
The Brunswickan spoke with the cast on their second day of performing the play; everybody excitedly gave their thoughts.
“I feel like [the play] changes every night,” said one cast member. “So if you saw it yesterday and you saw it today then it’s like a whole different – well, not a whole different show, but it does evolve and change. We have different energy each night, so, yeah. It’s crazy.”
“If the audience is very laughy then we get all laughy as well,” said another. “If they’re serious then we’d play it more seriously. So we kind of adapt to the audience’s feelings as much as we try.”
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the troupe experienced difficulties while rehearsing the production.
“I guess the main thing is that… during the time when we always have to wear masks, you miss the facial expressions,” they remarked. “So when you’re trying to rehearse… you can only see the eyes of everyone, not really like how their face looks… like, are they smiling or frowning, and that kind of stuff. And now when we’re performing maskless, it’s a really fun opportunity to, like, see not only [everyone’s] beautiful faces but to see all of their beautiful facial expressions as well.”
Director Falkenstein also added: “I have known about this play for a while and I really love the writer; he’s one of my favourite playwrights. I find his plays are so, just, smart and funny at the same time which are my favourite things, you know, smart and funny. But [his plays also] seem to be appropriate for the time we’re living in, when we’re still living in this world of fear and paranoia, and conspiracy theories and theorists everywhere.
“How I choose plays is based on my classes, and [The Ends of the Earth] is a play that I thought would fit the group I have this year very well, because they are all so well-cast in the show, right?” Falkenstein said, laughing.
The Ends of the Earth’s cast includes Adrian Saliendra, Seth Giberson, David Dairo-Singerr, Jane Deil, Armin Panjwani, Jordyn Atkinson, and Kenzie Hinchey. The play’s original music was written by Devin Rockwell.
After The Ends of the Earth, Theatre UNB will be presenting Tough! by George F. Walker (March 17-19) and Middletown by Will Eno (April 6-9). For more information about future performances, please visit Theatre UNB on Facebook.