MARYSVILLE — When it’s my time to die, I want to be visited by Death from “The Family Business.”
The apocalyptic comedy by local playwright Griffin Harwood is showing on Red Curtain Foundation’s Marysville stage through May 6.
Harwood’s satire takes the tale of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse for a modernized spin. The play is filled with zingers about sociopolitical issues of today’s world and delves into our hopes and fears surrounding them.
We watch as the Grim Reaper messes up the first day on the job. The rookie specter shows up to collect the soul of Mrs. Stephens, but he’s knocked on the wrong door. Instead he finds Caroline. Death is so new to the business that he mistakenly tells the young woman more about her eventual demise than he should.
Fast forward 20 years. Caroline passes on and is guided to the afterlife — well, almost. Death wants her to meet his family before he sends her soul on. (The two “go way back,” Death tells War, Pestilence and Famine.) That’s when Caroline learns that she’s died on the End of Days.
It’s up to Caroline to convince the Four Horsemen that the world should be spared.
“The Family Business” is directed by David Alan Morrison. In the cast are Sherry Penoyer as Caroline, Garrison Whaley-Sharp as Death, Rita Baxter as War, Julie Bryan as Pestilence, Keith A. Gehrig as Famine, Justin Tinsley as Santa Claus, Codie Wyatt Clark as Logan/Mom/Mrs. Stephens, Andrea Miner as Emily/Lacy, Bill Kusler as Hellhound 1/Skye and Stephen Waters as Hellhound 2.
My favorite character was Death, of course. I like him because he isn’t what you’d expect. (In fact, none of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is how they’re described in legends. In Harwood’s tale, the mythical riders reincarnate, taking many forms throughout time.) This Death isn’t grim. When he isn’t worrying about his job, he’s downright giddy. And no matter how much he tries, he isn’t scary.
Whaley-Sharp said the dark comedy’s not-so-subtle points have been thought-provoking.
“In this day and age, the world really does seem like it’s going to hell,” he said. “How do we come back from this? We can’t let hopelessness turn into complacency. It’s much easier to give up, but it’s so much better to keep fighting.”
Morrison — back directing for Red Curtain for the fourth time — has enjoyed working on “The Family Business,” especially because it’s a new play. He described it as “witty,” “fresh” and “surprising.” (Surprising because the play is loaded with expletives, but that’s what you get with a character like War.)
“There are a lot of F-bombs in the show,” he said. “My 73-year-old mother hates that word, but it didn’t bother her. She said it worked because the character of War is so rough and rash that it (suits) her.”
Harwood wrote the first scene of “The Family Business” for a playwriting class in college and was encouraged to finish it for a debut on the Red Curtain stage. I was hooked after that scene. I wanted so badly to find out how Caroline dies and if Death’s mistake had any repercussions.
Spoiler: We’re never told why Caroline dies, but we do learn the fate of the world. And, true to form, it’s not what you’d expect.
‘The Family Business’
Performances are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays through May 6 at the Red Curtain Arts Center, 9315 State Ave., Suite J, Marysville (in the Goodwill shopping center, behind the Everett Community College cosmetology school). The play contains mature themes and adult language and is not suitable for children.
Tickets are $18 for adults, $15 for seniors, students and military personnel, and are available online at www.brownpapertickets.com, at the box office from 2 to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday or by calling 360-322-7402.
For more information, go to www.redcurtainfoundation.org.