Review by David Walters

As we hear daily about the acceleration of extreme weather worldwide and its toll on people, animals, livelihood, and property, Last Man Club is an immersive revisit to a prior end of times – the Dust Bowl in the United States in the 1930s, another period of environmental and economic upheaval and new normals. 

Presented first in 2013, and now reprised as part of Axis Theatre Company’s 20th anniversary season, Last Man Club is a journey into seeming end-of days as outside forces overwhelm both body and soul.  

Last Man Club is both feeble and full, real and not real, hopeless and hopeful, mean and meek, starved and sated.  In other words, the play is many things all at the same time, but mainly a full meal of a theatrical experience that has a depth that only an ensemble group like Axis can bring to it. 

It’s a story about one of the desolate and isolated families who stayed when all good reason said to go.  The desperation of the situation leads to hopelessness and the delusions that the mind plays on itself and the tricks those delusions turnaround and play again on itself in a spiraling down to personal hell. Reality and sanity become lost in an overwhelming wall of flying dirt.

Major (Jon McCormick) is the patriarch of the family and hangs on, with his family that depends on him, despite hopelessness.  A storm of dust, “200 miles wide and high as god,” plagues the play enveloping and smothering (both physically and emotionally), reaching into every orifice, a constant companion.  Out of this tsunami of dirt comes Middle (George Demas), bringing a preposterous hope that could change the world as they know it.  The characters are all hauntingly tragic and emotionally spooky and will stay with you long after you’ve left the theater, like being in a dust storm that you can never quite wash off.

The design aspects of the production impart a true sense of place, time and environment, and that alone is its own takeaway.
The dark and dirty set by Chad Yarborough is the sandbox that everyone gets to play in, emoting a cave-quality like place that people can not truly live in, but only “just” survive.  David Zeffren‘s lighting design adds to the somberness in its quality of shadow-living where death and life are both real and imagined.  The costumes of Karl Ruckdeschel are lived in as shields, pitted with holes, to ward of the dark reality.
And it’s dirty.  And it is dusty.  And the wind blows and blows and blows thanks to the sound design of Paul Carbonara that adds stark realism and a dominating presence throughout.
The actors and the directing are all spot-on bringing their talents to bear, blending the darkness of life with the only thing that keeps us alive, that spark of hope, whether real or imagined.
“You never know when something’s going to end.  Just like you wished you knew when you were eating it, that that was your last ice cream for twenty-five years – you woulda made more out of it…”

Last Man Club is written and directed by Randy Sharp

With: Spencer Aste, Brian Barnhart, George Demas, Britt Genelin, Jon McCormick, and Lynn Mancinelli.

The creative team is Marc Palmieri (Dramaturg), Chad Yarborough (Set Designer), Karl Ruckdeschel (Costume Designer), David Zeffren (Lighting Designer), Paul Carbonara (Composer, Sound Designer).

Performances of Last Man Club take place June 5-28 and tickets can be purchased here.

Running Time is approximately 75 minutes with no intermission.

Go see this very good piece of theater.