The Van Wert County Courthouse

Friday, Jan. 21, 2022

VWCT play provides food for thought

JAMES THOMAS/for the independent

I enjoyed the evening very much. This show, Early One Evening at The Rainbow Bar & Grille, provides a satisfying mix of humor, romance, and spiritual food for thought. It’s a comedy with serious undertones about people interacting in a strange situation in dire circumstances basically; everything from anger to insanity comes out, and it turns into a love story at some point.

This play is about a group of individuals and their reactions to the ending of the world, as they know it. We, the audience, never learn exactly how the world is ending.  It just is.

Dan Hirn plays Shep, a writer-geek who wandered into town by accident one day and accepted a job as a bartender at the Rainbow.  He has just sold a book, but he won’t be able to cash his sizable check because the world is ending. Dan is a joy to watch on stage, he has the presence and effectively portrays his lack of hope in a future.

Dan Hirn (left) and Steve Lane in a scene from Early One Evening at the Rainbow Bar & Grille. (VWCT photo)
Dan Hirn (left) and Steve Lane in a scene from Early One Evening at the Rainbow Bar & Grille. (VWCT photo)

Enter Roy (Steve Lane), a doofus of a mechanic. Both his lines and his interpretation of them are funny. Steve has impeccable comedic timing and I always look forward to any performance he is in.

Amber Evans plays Shirley, the sexually confident barmaid. She has a list of things she wants to do before she dies. One of them is to finally put the moves on Shep, who is sexy, but in an oblivious way, and not at all confident. The transformation of Shirley is obvious. The things women do sometimes just to be able to cross items off our to-do lists!

P.S. Luhn plays Willy. We don’t know what Willy did for a living before the world started to end, but now he has his shotgun out and he is settling old scores with everyone who ever wronged him. He is one scary guy and Mr. Luhn has this character down to a fine art.

A traveling aluminum siding salesman named Bullard wanders into the bar. He is not convinced that everyone is going to die, but he wants to reconnect with some of his former customers in this area, people to whom he sold bomb shelters back in the day, just in case.  Doug Grooms plays this randy stranger, downing shots within beers with impressive enthusiasm and a great, sleazy laugh.

A little later, the bars outside sign falls down on the local gym — excuse me — health and physical education teacher’s car, forcing her to come inside and use the payphone. Her name is Virginia (Jamie Allen-Ream) and she was on her way to Colorado to be with her family, but she learns it is too late: they are already dead. Ream gives Virginia an appealing mix of feminist strength and vulnerability.  If I were Adam, I would want her by my side.

The characters are set; we see their faults and then enters “Joe” (Chris Lybold) to use the payphone. He is an especially intriguing character and Lybold portrays God as genial, compassionate and hilariously practical. I completely believed that God is always going to keep trying to communicate with His creations while letting us make our own choices, even when they destroy us.

The bar-and-grille set has a wealth of wonderful details. From the bar window sign and the well stocked bar, to the stale packets of chips and Slim Jims behind the bar, to the real jukebox, to the dartboard and the kitschy beer signs, it is obvious that a lot of care was taken to make the show look and feel a certain way.

Once again, Director George Dunster took a wonderfully written play to the stage and, with his artistic expertise, brought words and actors together. The end result is a performance I would strongly recommend as an enjoyable evening out.

Early One Evening at the Rainbow Bar & Grille continues March 19-22 at Van Wert Civic Theatre, 118 S. Race St. in Van Wert.  For more information or to make reservations, call 419.238.9689 Monday through Saturday, 2 to 6 p.m., or visit www.vwct.org.

POSTED: 03/18/15 at 7:04 am. FILED UNDER: Arts & Entertainment, News