A play about climate change sounds like a frightening way to spend an evening - an angst-ridden journey through humankind's headlong, train-wreck gamble with emissions-induced apocalypse.
Well, it is, and it isn't. Between Two Waves, on at the Herald Theatre in Auckland until August 15, is actually laugh-a-minute - for the most part, anyway, until the inevitable shit hits the fan.
Written by Aussie playwright Ian Meadows, the play has attracted a serious Kiwi cast, including The Almighty Johnsons' Emmett Skilton, Peter Feeney (who also directs) and Shara Connolly, who audiences will recognise as Candy from Go Girls.
Skilton plays Daniel, a highly strung climate scientist who is so overwhelmed by the crushing knowledge of exactly what lies in store for the planet - and the lasting anxiety of a tragic childhood - he increasingly must find refuge in his container of pills.
He is beautifully offset by Fiona (Connolly), who throughout the play becomes his girlfriend and then the expectant mother of his child. She epitomises the blissful ignorance with which much of the population deals with the climate crisis, and her optimism crashes spectacularly into Daniel's pessimism throughout.
Strong support comes from Leanne Frisbie, who makes her professional stage debut with aplomb playing Grenelle, a hard-nosed (but-with-problems-of-her-own) insurance assessor who we meet in the opening scenes when she arrives to process Daniel's claim from a calamitous flood which has destroyed 10 years' worth of work on his hard drives. The insurance angle is a clever one, and serves to heighten the absurd and futile notion of insuring tiny and meaningless possessions against such a huge and inevitable crisis.
Tipping point after tipping point is breached. Persuaded by his boss Jimmy (played by a convincing Peter Feeney) to take up the job of a government science advisor, the professional crises arrive in the form of a botched TV debate, where Daniel is easily bested by a smooth-talking climate change denier and, when - much like our own government just last month - a watered-down emissions policy is published, which Daniel meekly accepts.
Frightened to reveal the extent of his devastating knowledge to Fiona, he nevertheless eventually erupts into a furious, climate-armageddon monologue - a highlight.
Throughout the 100-minute performance, Skilton never leaves the stage, and the past and present start to overlap, coinciding with the ever-increasing frequency of Daniel's self medication. The final scene is a stroboscopic exchange between Daniel, Fiona and Grenelle, which brings it to its dramatic climax.
If there are any criticisms, the personal problems of Grenelle seem rather superfluous, and the sub-plot around the tragic circumstances of the death of Daniel's sister in his childhood are somewhat drawn out.
But Emmett Skilton is utterly convincing, and his research and interviews with climate scientists to prepare for the role have stood him in good stead. Likewise Shara Connolly is magnificent - a brash, sexy and straight-talking counterpoint to Daniel's science-nerd bumble. Together Leanne Frisbie and Peter Feeney give nuanced and polished performances.
Note to Auckland Council: lose the petrochemical cups into which patrons have to pour their drinks before entering the auditorium. Paper cups will do just fine.