“Fear will follow you to the ends of the earth.”
So intones a fortune-teller of debatable abilities in Vertigo Mystery Theatre’s upcoming comedy, The Ends of the Earth, by Canadian playwright Morris Panych. And while fear might not hunt the audience the same way it does the two hapless heroes of the story, we might be able to see more of ourselves than we think in their misadventures.
“We live in a world of paranoia... where you turn on the television and you immediately become afraid,” says Craig Hall, Vertigo’s artistic director. “I think Morris has written this specifically for that reason: it’s a world that’s fuelled by fear, and what happens when that’s taken to the nth degree.”
The story focuses on two men: self-effacing Frank (Christian Goutsis), who strives to be as inconspicuous as possible, and pathologically paranoid Walker (Kevin Corey), suspicious of the world since a run-in with a lightning bolt as a child. These two collide early in the play, and from then on, their fates are intertwined, happily taking the audience along for the ride. “They notice each other at the same time and make the same assumption, and the ways in which they follow each other are part of the backbone of the comedy,” says Goutsis. “They meet similar people on the way that affect where they go and what they do, and it’s in an effort to get away from each other that they are actually moving closer and closer together.”
This menagerie of other characters (played by Natascha Girgis, David Horak and Rebecca Northan) certainly promise to add colour. There’s an aspiring actress, a Russian sailor, a grumpy waitress, a stoned truck driver, the aforementioned fortune-teller (of questionable talent), and let’s not forget that this is still mystery theatre — there’s a detective in the mix, trying to unearth whether a crime has been committed.
“Two guys that really would rather blend into the world around them and not be noticed, suddenly find themselves pinballing around in this world of really dynamic characters,” says Hall.
Mystery buffs intent on pegging the criminal before the obligatory “all-is-revealed” dialogue are in for a surprise. “A Vertigo audience very much wants to figure stuff out,” says Goutsis. “I think this play does require a bit of abandon where you just need to enjoy yourself, and it’ll be interesting to see at what point people go, ‘oh, okay, there’s nothing to figure out here.’”
So you have fair warning that the stage might not be littered with bodies. Instead, the theatre will be teeming with one-liners. “It’s a funny kind of comedy, because it doesn’t have your classic setup of the joke and punchline — it’s kind of riddled with punchlines,” says Hall. “It’s the kind of show where different things are going to be funny to different people. Not that there aren’t real payoff jokes, but in between every joke with payoff are 20 other little witty comments on society and life and character and everything else.”
While there is social commentary on our fearmongering ways, above all else this play is about entertainment. “The humour comes of the fact that we see where it’s going, and then we get to step back and watch the train wreck happen,” says Hall.