Comedian Simon Amstell, sounding a little in awe, summed up the pending live Radiolab show thusly: "You came out here to watch two men sit behind a desk and talk about science."
He was right. The mostly-full Verizon-Theater-worth of people drove out to Grand Prairie on a Monday night to watch Robert Krulwich and Jad Abumrad host Apocalyptical, the new live show from Radiolab, talk about science.
Apocalyptical is all about endings, from the mass extinction of the dinosaurs to the decay of periodic elements to the onset of Parkinson's disease. Joining the hosts on stage were On Fillmore and Noveller, providing a live score as Abumrad conducted them with side gestures, three massive video screens and equally massive dinosaur puppets.
Krulwich and Abumrad on stage are more slapstick and variety hour-esque than they are on the radio. They ham it up in various skits. They ask a Tyrannosaur how it died off, and the dino-puppet spins around in a fury (Amstell, acting as translator, clarified that it wanted to show them its anus). They even chug pint glasses of Pepto-Bismol as a toast to bismuth, the first element on the periodic table in the section of elements that decay and die.
The third act was less playful and less visual. This was the slow and steady ending promised in the teasers, a story of two actors both dealing with Parkinson's disease as they struggle to rehearse and perform the play Endgame. Samuel Beckett's play about two men trapped in a room with dwindling resources and a sense of absurd foreboding resonates with the two men as they deal with their disease.
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The story felt out of place here. The visuals were subdued, the screens above the stage showing black and grey images of the still silhouette of a man. At first it seems like a story better-suited to a normal Radiolab show, but as it unfolds it doesn't step heavily into the science behind Parkinson's. Nor does it veer into any technical details really.
"This is a different kind of story for us," Abumrad says at the end. "It got under our skin."
"The way these guys stare into the dark wind and keep walking," Krulwich adds.
The show closed on a much darker note than anyone would have guessed from the opening dinosaur anus. The audience was almost silent as everyone walked to the exits. Outside, it had started storming.