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December 06, 2002

Last Day

Reviewed By Ron Cohen, Backstage
Presented by the AUDAX Theatre Group, casting by Claudia Bloom, at Altered Stages, 212 W. 29 St., NYC, Nov. 2-23.

Jeremy, a young man obsessed with luxuries, is the central character in Daniel Roberts' "Last Day," an entertaining cautionary tale warning against such an unhealthy preoccupation. Jeremy hungers for swank hotels, gourmet foods, elegant clothing. While he spends his meager funds to enjoy them during brief vacations from his misery-inducing job, he has neither the skills nor resources to obtain them in his everyday life. He's an untalented Mr. Ripley, a Gatsby manqué.

We meet Jeremy and his longtime girlfriend, Maria, on the last day of their week's stay at the ultra-posh Hibiscus hotel in the Caribbean. Such departures are traumatic for Jeremy, and he's busy plotting a way to extend the vacation. Maria upsets such plans with the revelation that she's pregnant, but it's only a minor concern for Jeremy, who's much more involved with his despair at leaving the Hibiscus and getting funds for a longer stay. His discomfiture is heightened by the envy he feels for his pal, Max, the scion of an investment banking family awash with all the cash Jeremy could ever want. Max is vacationing at the Hibiscus with girlfriend of the moment, Sabrina.

Needless to say, Jeremy's not likable and, in the role, Michael Hogan makes no play for sympathy. In fact, his affected way of speaking, curiously slicked-down hair, and expensive-looking but ill-fitting sport coat only add to an off-putting ungainliness. But as frustration mounts over his lack of means, climaxing in a desperate phone conversation with an unyielding credit card company, Hogan creates a compelling portrait of self-destruction.

As Max and Sabrina, Scott Duffy and Alexa Zee provide some attractive sexiness, although the characters aren't particularly likable, either. The most sympathetic one around is the hotel manager, excellently played by Robert McKay, letting us see the human being behind the unctuous distance he maintains with hotel guests.

Except for distractingly busy set changes between the many scenes, director Sam Roberts keeps things moving neatly.