Final Broadcast

Vashon troupe offers an intriguing piece of American Zen.

Had Rod Serling smoked pot with Immanuel Kant over a cup of really strong French roast, they might have conceived something like the UMO Ensemble’s excellent mind-bender Final Broadcast, a play that delves like a paranoid cosmonaut into the age-old conundrum of the nature of time. Conceived by David Godsey and Christopher Petit, who also directs, the show is as bracingly entertaining as it is thoughtful, achieving an impressive level of philosophical sophistication without ever bogging down in ponderous high-mindedness.

The story of a late-night talk-radio host whose on-air riffs become a spirited and jazzy deconstruction of reality itself, Final Broadcast takes aim at the ways time tends to imprison us, a spur to anxiety and a reminder of mortality. Inspired by a series of disturbing, desperate calls from a woman in existential crisis—”There’s no sense, no narrative…only grief,” she tells him—the DJ’s attack on linear time becomes the ultimate act of rebellion, especially in the eyes of his station managers, devious corporate shills who rely on the advertising dollars of such time-is-money outfits as “Church of the Sacred Hour.” Act 2 takes a turn for the seriously surreal, as host and caller engage the powers that be in a life-or-death struggle over the mysterious contents of a suitcase. This jump through the looking glass, which involves several slow-motion chase scenes, showdowns, and double crosses, causes the show to drag in places, though the four-person cast’s talent and flair save it from tediousness.

David Godsey, co-founder of the Vashon-based UMO, stars as Hunter, the straitlaced radio host whose act of temporal rebellion makes him the unlikeliest of heroes. With his nervous, high-pitched rambling and sharp talent for physical comedy, Godsey’s transformation from nebbish nobody to swaggering liberator is one of this play’s great pleasures. Kajsa Ingemansson plays Lenora, the late-night caller who’s equally transformed by her struggles to shrug off the shackles of linear time. And Lyam White and Dru Johnston are exceptional as Colin and Gavin, the Tweedledee/Tweedledum-ish station managers who utilize all manner of subterfuge to keep their victims crucified on the clock. An exciting, fast-paced blend of slapstick, psychedelia, and intellectual curiosity, Final Broadcast offers an intriguing and amusing piece of American Zen. Rarely are philosophical disquisitions—especially ones so time-obsessed and hyperactive—this much fun.