The cast of End Days:
John Manfredi (Arthur
Stein) and Eric Eilersen
seated; and Lydia Hiller
(Rachel Stein), Emily
Stein) and Andrew
In JET production, characters handle "the end of the world."
Tony Casselli and features John Manfredi
(Arthur Stein), Emily Sutton-Smith (Sylvia
Stein), Lydia Hiller (Rachel Stein), Eric
eborah Zoe Laufer describes her
Eilerson (Nelson Steinberg) and Andrew
plays as "ripped from the head-
Head (Jesus/Stephen Hawking).
lines:' and more than one head-
"All of my plays ask questions and try
line is addressed in End Days.
to probe Laufer explains. "I think gener-
The seriocomedy, being staged March
ally what playwrights do is look at what it
6-24 by the Jewish
means to be human at a point in
Ensemble Theatre in
our evolution, and I think all my
West Bloomfield, intro-
plays do that to some extent."
duces a family, along
The evolutionary points in End
with a neighbor, trans-
Days were suggested by a program
fixed by news-grabbing
on National Public Radio.
"I found out that 40 percent
The man of the
of the country was evangelical,
and I realized I didn't really know
by 9-11, doesn't want to
what that meant:' Laufer says.
leave home and stays
"Whenever I find that a lot of the
in his pajamas all day.
country is involved in something
Playwright Debo rah
His wife, who has left
that I know nothing about, I feel
Judaism, resides in
like I better figure out what it is.
thoughts of the Rapture,
"I started doing research to get
which has been defined
in the mindset of someone who
by certain religious groups as the "end of
believes what Sylvia believes because that's
days:' in which true believers will meet
really not my way of seeing the world.
Christ on his return to Earth to be taken up
"When I was reading about it all, so
to Heaven. Their daughter, into the world of much of the Rapture sounded like 9-11
goth, has become the romantic interest of
and what people described seeing. It all fit
an Elvis-impersonating neighbor.
"I love that this play asks a lot of ques-
Laufer, who identifies as Jewish, is not
tions without answering them, and I actu-
ally love all the characters:' says Laufer
"I'm really fascinated by science, but I'm
in a phone conversation from Cincinnati,
happy for anybody who finds something
where another of her plays, Leveling Up, is
that gives them answers to their questions
premiering. "I like that End Days is about
or keeps them searching:' the playwright
finding what you already have."
Produced in conjunction with mid-
"I find that the country is so polarized
Michigan's Williamston Theatre, where
right now, and I think this play offers
it has had a run, the play is directed by
a way to get back to some sort of unity.
There are some bridges that we just can't
cross, but we can find common territory to
Laufer, who began her career as an
actress and standup comic, wrote through-
out that segment of her life. She started
working on plays when she was pregnant
with the first of her two sons.
"I knew I didn't want to be out every
night once my son was born:' says Laufer,
who was raised in Catskills territory,
studied acting at SUNY Purchase and is
married to entertainment attorney David
"I was lucky enough to go to the Missoula
Colony and meet [playwright] Marsha
Norman. She was in charge of a program at
Juilliard and invited me there. I went as a
playwright, and it really changed my life:'
Laufer, who lives in New York's
Westchester County, credits her husband
for helping to make her career possible.
Although an actor, he sought out a more
secure lifestyle through law after they
married, and he works from home.
"The advice I always give people is to
write every day, but I don't do that:' says
Laufer, who reports End Days has been
translated into Russian for readings in
Siberia and Uzbekistan.
"I write when I'm panicked because I
have a deadline. I always have several proj-
ects going on at once. Whichever one is
nipping at me, usually from outside, is the
one I'm madly trying to finish:'
Leveling Up, most recently finished, is
about four video garners in their early 20s.
One is recruited by the government to
operate drones out of Nevada. Ultimately,
the play probes the fine line between real-
ity and virtual reality.
Informed Consent, not yet finished,
delves into personal decisions relevant to
the human genome — how much infor-
mation people can know and how much
they want to know.
"I'm working on two musicals:' reveals
Laufer, a Sondheim fan. "I've taken work-
shops so I'm learning how to write lyrics.
I'll be writing both books and lyrics as I
collaborate with composers.
"One musical is an adaptation of my
play Out of Sterno (about a songwriter
losing his creative touch), and the other
musical is an original:'
Laufer tries to forget about her age.
Defining her work as written for all ages,
she doesn't believe in dwelling on her date
"I hope I bring a comic outlook to my
plays:' says the writer, taken with online
Scrabble. "Comedy is the lightning in the
bottle. I don't even really know that what I
write is genuinely comic because comedy
is not the goal.
"I'm always a little suspicious when
something isn't at all funny. I think life is
funny if you're paying attention:'
End Days runs March 6-24 in
the Aaron DeRoy Theatre in the
Jewish Community Center in West
Bloomfield. Performances begin
at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March
6, with subsequent shows at
7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 5 and 8:30
p.m. Saturdays, and 2 and 7 p.m.
Sundays. $38-$45. (248) 788-2900;
February 28 • 2013