Robert Tanitch reviews It Just Stopped at Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond, Surrey.
Australian playwright Stephen Sewell has written an inconsistent and flawed allegory about Armageddon, which is usually the stuff of nightmares and horror movies, but is here used to shock an American married couple out of their smug and complacent isolationism.
He (Joseph Kloska) is an intellectual snob who writes for The New York Review of Books. He reveres Wagner and thinks the composer’s anti-Semitism is irrelevant. His wife (Emma Pallant) is Jewish. He is not interested in politics. He’s only interested in Art and does not care what is happening to people in the Third World. He just wishes the poor nations would all die and let him get on with living his life.
The couple live high up in a tower block, on the 47th floor, symbolically divorced from what is going on down below. One day they wake up to find the computer, the TV, the cell-phone and the elevator are not working. They have no electricity and no water. They panic.
Then there is a knock at the door and they let in two vulgar Australians (John Bowler and Cate Debenham-Taylor) who want to make them their slaves. More panic stations. Bowler’s entrepreneur (who has made a lot of money selling cardboard boxes) has a devil of a smile.
The big surprise is to discover that we are not in America but in Australia. Sewell’s satire, a very anti-American diatribe, begins wittily enough but gets so out of control, that the audience is left completely at a loss as to what is going on.