My first adventure to Buddies in Bad Times Theatre did not disappoint! Distant Early Warning, written by Justin Miller (aka Pearle Harbour) and directed by J.W. Turner, is a post-apocalyptic love story whose message about love and human connection is poignant and powerful. With the irreverence of a drag show and a story that will tug on your heart-strings, Distant Early Warning is the theatrical experience we all need right now.
The set for Distant Early Warning was funky, functional, and full of surprises. The projection elements which started the performance as well as the ones used for ambiance throughout were beautiful and allowed us to feel fully immersed in the world that the Listener is left with. The bunker itself was fascinating, with bountiful switches, nobs, and a naughty poster or two. I loved how it opened up so that we could all see inside while certainly not minimizing the tight living and working quarters she’s endured for the past 5 years. Watching her have to try to negotiate and repair the station as it’s aging was simultaneously comical and dismal, as you began to understand how hopeless things have truly become.
Justin Miller/Pearle Harbour is downright enchanting. They’re able to keep our focus for the entire performance with a mix of beautiful dialogue, singing, and even a strip tease! I loved that the songs were standards from the 50’s; the whole ambiance of the play was very much of the cold-war bomb-threat-prep days. Only in this case the bomb’s gone off and the Listener is not left with much! I loved that the performance was done totally in drag; it not only emphasizes the myriad talents of the performer, it also added another layer of façade to the already highly stylized world in which the character inhabits. I also absolutely adored how Pearle bantered with the audience, letting us know when to whoop and holler but also when our laughter at her frustration was perhaps “ill-timed”. She was just delightful, which makes the more real and heart-breaking elements of the story just that much more devastating. To watch her bright-eyed optimism fade over the course of the show as the event which she has been so patiently waiting for finally arrives is crushing, but also really spoke to me. We’ve all endured so much and had to do a lot of it on our own, so it wasn’t much of a stretch to imagine how the Listener is feeling at the mere prospect of getting to see another human for the first time in years.
Another quick note in regards to the ambiance of the play: make sure you take a program on your way in. It’s such a unique little booklet and just totally grounds you in the world of the play before it’s even begun. The whole idea of this company, MoonMist, owning literally everything was too funny and yet also strikes certain chords with reality. It made me think of Wall-E and how Buy N Large seems to own everything. But also like Wall-E, we see the Earth healing itself little by little, providing a shred of hope at the closing of the play.
I simply cannot tell you how much you need to RUN to see this play. It’s happening at Buddies in Bad Times theatre until May 29. Tickets start at just $10! Distant Early Warning — Buddies in Bad Times Theatre
Photo of Pearle Harbour (Justin Miller) by Jeremy Mimnagh, set design by Jackie Chau, lighting design by Jareth Li