“Thanatos” is the winner among 450 entries in the Unicorn’s 1993 national play-writing contest. It is the first by Ron Simonian, a Kansas Citian, to be professionally produced. He has written thoughtfully about our culture and an evolving attitude toward death as an avenue to personal power and a prelude to a sexual encounter. He has kept it absorbing and funny throughout, with dialogue in the everyday mode.
Simonian’s work is unusually good for a first effort, worthy of production beyond little theater, possibly the basis also for a telefilm or motion picture.
The premise has Ted (William Harper) and Sam (Phil Fiorini), two Red Cross disaster workers, in their hotel room after a day of photographing the havoc of a roof cave-in and counseling survivors.
Ted is visibly upset by the finality of death at the disaster and wants to hash it out with Sam, who takes it in stride, sees death as a phase and is bent on a night out with a woman curiosity seeker whom he met at the site. He undergoes a number of startling changes that lead to a violent demise.
Director Sidonie Garrett has achieved a lively, even pace and drawn top performances from the entire cast. Simonian could not ask for a better presentation of his work. While the action and dialogue are absorbing throughout , the suddenness and extent of the violence, however much it clings to the premise, brings the viewer up short. It’s doubtful if a softer ending could end the play as effectively.