"How do you prepare for the end of the world?" This question from Seconds to Midnight, co-written by Brandon Darcel and Anastasia Webb, encapsulates the theme and tone of the play. Performed by Brandon Darcel with direction by Anastasia Webb, this solo show follows a young person named Arnold as he shares moments of his life leading up to his personal apocalypse.
The writing of this show contains several parallel plots. Arnold, the protagonist, shares stories about the pharmacy where he currently works, the pool where he used to work and visions he is experiencing regarding the end of the world. In addition, Arnold gives small tidbits throughout the show, for example, detailing the water cycle and his love of New Year's Eve.
At the beginning of the show, I found keeping track of the concurrent timelines, characters and plot points challenging. For example, I found it hard to remember the various characters Arnold describes from his time as a lifeguard. At first, it isn't evident why Arnold shares these stories and the significance of these tidbits but later on, the stories connect nicely.
In addition, the script could have conveyed the themes and major points more succinctly, adding more connective tissue linking his stories rather than focusing on what to say to the audience and the angst of how the character came across.
Amidst his struggle to find the catalyst for his demise, the storylines came together to tell of his life and eventual death. It was very satisfying when it all unfolded in the end. For example, it is revealed that Arnold quit his lifeguarding job due to a child's death, for which he blames himself. The ripple effects from this trauma inform the paranoia he experiences at the end of the world. The puzzle pieces come together to create a picture of a young man's short life and his untimely demise.
Darcel's acting was rather forced to be believable at times. While I applaud his use of physicality in portraying the external reflections of the character's mental state, less is more in this instance. The character's particular tics and habits made him interesting but, at times, were distracting.
An element of the play that worked well was the simplicity of the tech. The lighting design by Lucie Chantepie was understated in a way that made it stand out and feel more theatrically effective. The sound design by Kate Parker-Lentz also was used only in moments that genuinely served the plot and enhanced the experience of the play.
Seconds to Midnight ends with Arnold stepping into the crowd and speaking directly with an audience member. These small moments of connection in the show are what really stayed with me afterward. Overall, the play has an interesting concept and point of view but could shine brighter with some reworking.
"Seconds to Midnight” Co-Written and Performed by Brandon Darcel
Co-written and directed by Anastasia Webb The Tank
312 W 36 Street, 1st Floor, NY, NY https://thetanknyc.org/calendar-1/secondstomidnight
Carmen! is a trans-multimedia artist specializing in playwriting, acting and crochet. Originally from Jacksonville Beach, Florida, they are currently based in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, returning to their Atlantic Oceanic roots. Their play Taking the Plunge has been performed at the Tank and the Chain off-Broadway and in the 2023 Fresh Fruit Festival slated this June. Carmen has also worked in front-of-house and technical positions for prominent theater organizations including New Dramatists, Portland Playhouse, Emursive and Future Proof. Carmen’s mission is to use play to create meaningful representation by and for underrepresented communities. For more information on Carmen! Follow them on socials @carmenacetosociety or check out www.carmenburbridge.info