Zack Morrison

The Eleventh Hour

Reviewer's Rating

If the end of the world was going to happen, I suppose it would be in New Jersey. New Brunswick, New Jersey, to be precise. I am perhaps a little biased, as a native New Jersian myself, but The Eleventh Hour feels like taking a visit home. Nevin (Henry Fisher) is an unambitious basement rocker who wants nothing more than to keep playing Basement Shows with his friends (New Brunswick for life!). His girlfriend, Amy (Miranda Luze) has her eyes on a larger prize: an internship with Neil Degrasse Tyson (Olivia London) in New York City. Unfortunately for Amy, this trek to New York City happens because of a cataclysmic, end of the world disaster brought on by humanity and a sentient black hole.

The shows open with a pre-show; in the case of my viewing, a stand-up comedy routine by the writer’s brother, Kevin Seamon. The stand-up set established a tone that carried over to the show itself: a not-quite polished charm of a person performing for a group of friends and family. Was it the most cutting edge or clever stand-up routine I’ve ever seen? No. But Kevin does have a knack for telling a joke and with the enthusiasm of the set I could not help but smile. An interesting backstory Kevin brings up as a part of joke is that his brother actually cut numerous songs from the original show. And this is clear evidence for the benefit of workshopping and killing your darlings. Part of what makes such a weird concept with low production values work is that the show is tight and concise. For the most part, there are no unnecessary storylines, with the exception of a slightly too long mole men sequence, or musical beats and the show sails by on its energy.

The story can be a little choppy at times and a few jokes don’t land, in part because the singers are sometimes not understandable. This is a mix of a problem of sound balance and not enough enunciation. The show itself overall is actually quite funny and emotionally grounded with enjoyable music. However, what truly saves the show from being simply silly is the commitment of the actors and their genuine talent. Standout performer of the entire production has to go to London. Perfectly clear to understand, precise and hysterical character choices, and a beautiful voice mean that whether she plays an acclaimed scientist or an ensemble member, my eye constantly sought her out. Christopher Pasi impresses with his range of characters and truly bringing the humor and Luze and Fisher are sweet as star-crossed lovers, his slightly more rock vocals and her classic Broadway belting managing to blend quite well as the show goes on.

The production value is low, with only a simple runway and unobscured camera projections to set the stage, but this benefits the quirky nature of the show. A polished look for the production would have registered as the show taking itself too seriously; instead, the audience gets the familial, haphazard comfort of the basement shows Nevin and his band play. Without being obnoxious, the show is sprinkled with knowing winks to the audience. Navigating the end of the world, an ‘it’s complicated’ relationship, and weird, new, mostly human friendships, The Eleventh Hour mashes up 50s exploitation science fiction film and rock musicals in a surprisingly delightful journey across the NJ Turnpike.