James Y. Kim

‘Revelations’ review: waiting for the end of the world

Fertile Ground reading reveals a funny, promising and ultimately poignant depiction of the last judgment 


Waiting for the End of the World, Dear Lord!
I sincerely hope you’re coming
‘Cause you really started something!
— Elvis Costello

In grade school, a passel of us would walk to Mrs. Fey’s house every Tuesday after school for her home baked oatmeal cookies… after she fed us a conservative Christian bible-thumping lesson. Portraying God’s grief, wailing like a Greek war widow in a rich Billie Holiday voice, she embarrassed my Greek pantheist soul, which detests maudlin attempts to manipulate human emotion. So how did James Y. Kim make it work?

I saw Kim’s Revelations in a staged reading at Portland’s Fertile Ground Festival before I read the script. While the whole thing shoulda been a Wham! Bam! Holy Shit! kinda ride, it did have a gut punch of a climax I did not see coming despite my years with Mrs. Fey. It doesn’t matter whether you’re familiar with Fundamentalist Christianity or if you’re against any hierarchical monotheistic, male portrayal of a Universal Ruler, I think David Loftus (playing the Supreme Being) and Kim totally shocked us and moved us to pity in a performance that felt like Kim mined himself hard to dig up this feeling of grief and — unlike Mrs. Fey — made me feel it!

A scene from ‘Revelations’ at Fertile Ground Festival.

The ride there felt like a slog, though. Five beings are called upon to end the world: Michael and Gabriel – Archangels, an angel representing the four horsemen of the Apocalypse, the chief Seraphim and John the Revelator are summoned to this committee meeting. No, we are not in hell.

Kim’s character descriptions include:
Michael Male. Archangel. The big swinging dick in heaven.
Seraphim Female. The most powerful angel in heaven. Charming exterior, charred interior.

A contentious committee meeting of five characters (with emphasis on characters as in the two delicious descriptions above), lobbying for their own agendas for how to End The World, should feel like the opening bell of the NY Stock Exchange: Loud, frenetic, Type-AAAA, adrenaline-anxious even if we don’t yet know what’s at stake. This is chamber music, a five-voice Shostakovich Scherzo. Frantic, ominous, perfectly timed, tumbling down. Those kinds of movements require memorization, LOTS of rehearsal to sync up entrances, knowing when to butt in, and practicing practicing practicing until it feels sturdy and repeatable.