Vortex Repertory Company's Last: An Extinction Comedy

The magic cast by the company of this devised shows pulls laughs from the impending demise of the planet

Foreground: Jesús I. Valles (l) and Eva McQuade in Last: An Extinction Comedy (Photo by Errich Petersen)

The news from climate scientists is now dire. The political reality is even more dire given that climate skeptics are doing everything in their power to hasten our global demise. Sounds like the perfect opportunity for a devised and collaborative beat-prov comedy with songs!

The world premiere production of Last: An Extinction Comedy from director Rudy Ramirez and his fellow company members at the Vortex shows a group of sketch comedians under the leadership of a woman named Trash Panda (Julie Moore), wandering the desolated earth in search of an audience and basic living supplies. They've recently taken on a New Girl (Eva McQuade), who's trying to learn the ropes. Then they meet Morrigan Corvuscorax (Amelia Turner), who has set out on foot in search of a group of performers who can unify her city and raise their spirits. It's like A Bug's Life meets Station Eleven meets The Walking Dead meets ... whatever happens when the Vortex starts improvising.

Is it good? Yes. Does it make sense? Just about. The beginning's a little uneven, but once the central plot becomes clear, it's smooth sailing on ocean waters that have long since swallowed Houston and most of Florida.

The show works because Ramirez and his assistants have cast whatever magic they have at their disposal to turn a crazy grab bag of styles, concepts, and references into a coherent whole. It also works because this cast can pull it off. And, oh, that cast. Eva McQuade is a versatile performer whose ability to appear innocent and guileless is a gift to the world. Jesús I. Valles' comic timing is delightful in this show, as is that of several other actors. Last is also the first chance many in Austin will have had to see Vortex Producing Artistic Director Bonnie Cullum perform on stage. Please, Bonnie: Don't let it be the last. That was too good.

Often, theatre artists talk about political work as a means of creating change in the world. It's doubtful that Last is in a position to bring about any significant change – nor is any other left-leaning show likely to reach a conservative audience in these fragmented times. But maybe that's okay. Maybe, once you feel you've shouted all you can, finding a way to laugh at the building horror is a noble enough purpose on its own.

Last: An Extinction Comedy

The Vortex, 2307 Manor Rd., 512/478-5282
Through April 27
Running time: 2 hr., 30 min.

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Vortex Repertory Company, Rudy Ramirez, Bonnie Cullum, Eva McQuade, Jesús I. Valles, Amelia Turner, Julie Moore, climate change

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