Doomsday dilemma

FREMONT – If you believed the world was about to end, what would you do in those final hours? Get drunk? Go skinny dipping? Have a big dinner? Gather the family?

That scenario is at the core of “Early One Evening at the Rainbow Bar and Grille” by Bruce Graham. Fremont Community Theatre is to present this dark comedy at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.

As the curtain rises, “White Christmas” is playing at the small-town tavern. The main character is the bartender, Shep. With no place to go, he has kept the bar open to pass out free drinks. Jason Kramer, a Fremont native now residing in Toledo, portrays Shep. Other townsfolk who have not vacated the town are acting out to accomplish items on their bucket lists.

Roy, played by Jeff Buchanan of Gibsonburg, stops in for a six-pack and tells Shep “everybody’s going crazy.” One old guy has shed his clothes, and someone has released all the animals from the local pet shop. Unwilling to use the word “dead,” Roy is hoping to make it to Disney World before the end comes. He keeps saying he needs to get on the road, yet he keeps coming back to the bar.

Between customers, Shep tosses darts at a check for $8,700, the publisher’s advance on a steamy novel he has written.

Becoming an author has been his dream. Ironically, now he has no reason to cash the check and no chance to become famous. He keeps the manuscript at the bar and lets customers read passages from it.

Only one television station remains on the air, broadcasting reruns of “I Love Lucy.” There is no news about the impending disaster, but everyone seems to believe it will be a man-made, environmental catastrophe. The characters speculate on who might be responsible.

Next to arrive is Willie, portrayed by Tim Bolton of Fremont. He is attired in camouflage and toting a rifle. Rumor has it Willie has shot his wife and now is looking for his next mark. Although Shep says it is OK to shoot him, Willie says he can’t – because he has nothing against Shep.

“Everybody I wanna shoot has left town,” Willie complains.

When a stranger shows up to use the payphone, Willie takes aim but decides not to shoot.

The man introduces himself as Jake Bullard, an aluminum siding salesman. Scott Havice of Fremont is cast as Jake, who does not believe Armageddon is nigh. Still, he wants to find a bomb shelter he installed years ago to get away from all the crazy people.

Lauren Meyer of Sandusky bursts in as the barmaid, Shirley, carrying a caged rat that had not left the pet store. Adorned with diamond jewelry, Shirley confesses she has been breaking into jewelry stores and stealing expensive cars to drive around town and pick up loot.

Shirley also admits seducing Shep is on her final list. Although he has fantasized that event, he resists her advances, and she leaves.

In the empty bar, Shep pulls out a pistol and calmly tries to take his own life. When the gun won’t fire, he remarks, “This is not my day.”

Then, he hears a crash out on the street. The establishment’s neon sign has crushed a car, and its driver is headed into the bar. Hilary Frater of Fremont portrays the woman, Virginia, a local physical education teacher. She is angry she won’t be able to reach her family in Colorado because of the sign.

Shep tries to help her make a phone call, only to learn the western U.S. has been destroyed. Virginia realizes she might have died with her family if she had reached her destination.

She wonders aloud what good it did to work hard and take care of herself, if she is to be wiped off the face of the earth.

“It’s not fair,” she says.

She wants to be reckless in what time she has left. Shep gives her cigarettes and drinks.

Virginia and Shep discover they know each other from somewhere. He admits watching her jogging around the area. They decide to make the best of their time together and start making out.

The couple is interrupted by a well-dressed stranger who knows their names and operates the phone like magic. He makes an appointment, apparently unconcerned about the coming destruction. Portrayed by Michael P.J. Foos of Gibsonburg, the man introduces himself as Joe.

The pair is shocked at the proposal Joe offers them.

Linda Bower is directing this production. The contemporary costumes allow the audience to believe the action could be happening now in any small Ohio town.