In the early stages of the Capital Fringe Festival show “Waiting for Armageddon,” Ron Litman looks like a freaked out monk. Wearing a sackcloth and ranting into a microphone that the end of civilization is near, he’s the quintessential unrepentant 1960s hippie petrified by modern humankind’s self-destructive ways.
Let’s be clear: Litman is fabulous at this.
He also has an ace partner in keyboardist-composer Tom Pile, who helps Litman pepper this 65-minute show with funny and infectious protest songs.
There’s a gospel number from the Church of the Sick and Tired, a nuclear ditty that sounds like it might be called “First Strike Boogie,” and more that are memorable enough to hum hours later.
Pile writes the unfailingly catchy music and chimes in with vocals. Litman, whose costumes eventually include a general’s uniform and a Bob Marley wig (not at the same time), pens the cynical, punchy lyrics.
His targets range from disease to militarism, and he’s never caught short.
Litman, 64, sustains a pace that’s best described as controlled frenzy: The words come in crisp torrents, and the dances that go with the songs (especially one about simians) are nicely wacky.
In fact, critical selling points of Litman’s act are his sly humor and a healthy Strangelovean sense of the absurd. You never doubt for a moment that Litman’s news-driven fears are real, yet one of his most engaging numbers is a high-strung song about runaway fear itself.
Spiritually, this rabble-rousing performance belongs on a busy corner or in a public park: It’s old-school, high-energy street theater.
But Litman and Pile, whose creative partnership goes back several decades, easily convert the Lab II of the Atlas Performing Arts Center into their own counterculture revival hall. Dudes: Amen.
“Waiting for Armageddon” will be performed three more times on Friday, Saturday and July 25. Visit capitalfringe.org.