It’s the end of the world as we know it:

Early One Evening at the Rainbow Bar and Grill

[  By Kendra Walker  ]

The Crested Butte Mountain Theatre celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, and what better way to help celebrate the longest running community theatre in Colorado than spending an evening at the Mallardi Cabaret Theatre to see CBMT’s production of Early One Evening at the Rainbow Bar and Grill. 

Early One Evening at the Rainbow Bar and Grill, written by Bruce Graham and directed by long-time Gunnison Valley thespian Paul Edwards, is a dark comedy that takes place in a small western Pennsylvania town in the 1980s as the world is coming to an end. 

Early One Evening at the Rainbow Bar and Grill is no stranger to CBMT, which did this play back in 1991. According to Edwards, CBMT has chosen to produce works that it has done in the past this season to celebrate the organization’s 50 years. Despite the play’s 1980s origins, many of the topics, themes and dialogues are just as significant and relevant today. “When it was first presented in 1986, it may have been perceived of as a bit extreme in its comedy, but now, over 35 years later, it conveys an eerie prescience,” said Edwards. 

Edwards notes that the play has been kept intact to reflect the time in which it was written, and that nothing has been added to the script. “Which is what is so remarkable about the play, in many ways, it reads like it was written last week,” he said. 

Commentary on the wealthy, Russia, school board meetings and book banning brings uncanny similarities to what our nation, and our small-town mountain community, is currently facing today. Even the bar setting and a nod to polka makes it believable that these characters are facing their doomsday realities right here in one of Crested Butte’s fine establishments. Many of us know or have encountered very similar folks and especially with the world’s events over the last few years, it’s not very difficult to imagine ourselves in these characters’ positions. 

While the details of how the world ends leads much to the imagination, the audience gets to witness how seven very different characters cope with the end of the world and how they choose to spend their remaining time. Shep the bartender struggles to understand his purpose while locals and visitors come in and out of the bar to shelter from the chaos and anarchy taking place outside. The characters slowly begin to release their inhibitions, bringing with them tension, confusion, sadness, humor and clarity. Despite the apocalyptic storyline, Early One Evening at the Rainbow Bar and Grill is filled with great one-liners and physical comedy that are sure to make for some laugh-out-loud moments. And it wouldn’t be fun without a little plot twist, when a stranger walks into the bar with a proposition.  

The cast of Early One Evening at the Rainbow Bar and Grill brings a solid performance to the stage, and each actor makes the most of their characters’ journeys throughout the evening. The writing and direction truly give everyone their moment to shine. 

Many of the cast members have graced the CBMT stage before, including Jimmy Utley as Shep who plays his character’s struggles and woes with sincerity. Alec Lindeman as Roy the firefighter brings much of the comic relief, so be sure to watch out for his antics even when he doesn’t have lines. Nel Burkett is charming and genuine as Shirley, and has everyone in the audience scheming up what their own “end of the world list” would look like. Jack Mangan is a natural, playing the traveling salesman Bullard with just enough grease. Ian Wrisley effortlessly plays the intimidating marksman Willy, having you convinced not to get on his bad side. Molly Arment delivers a dynamic and honest performance as Virginia the teacher, juggling the many different emotions of her character with ease. Emily Wallick, who is also the production coordinator and light and sound design, commands the stage as the confident and mysterious Joe. 

The “horizontal” stage setup gives every audience member an up-close experience, so be prepared to look back and forth around the room to catch all the action. The setup also gives the actors a unique space to work with while also utilizing smart off-dialogue moments to entertain the audience. 

Early One Evening at the Rainbow Bar and Grill runs one final weekend this Friday and Saturday, June 3 and 4. Doors open at 7 and the show starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25, visit cbmountaintheatre.org to purchase and learn more. 

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