The afterlife draft: Goodluck Macbeth presents the world premiere of ‘You May Have 6’

You can have six people with you in the afterlife. Who are they? Quickly now!

Oh, and this isn’t just a fun dinner table conversation starter. It’s for real. And we’re in a hurry.

This is the premise of DC Cathro’s 2022 dark comedy play You May Have 6, which is currently making its world premiere at Reno’s Goodluck Macbeth Theatre.

This one-act play centers on Roger (played by Brandon Collins), who is newly deceased and puts about as much thought into this central eternal question as he put into his life on earth—that is to say, almost none. When pressured by a big voice in the sky (David Beck) to quickly select six companions with whom he’ll live forever, he picks the first names that pop into his head: his goofball party pal, Cam (Ryan Kelly); his girlfriend, Jodi (McCarren Caputa); his ex-girlfriend, Steph (Kristina Charpentier); some guy he’s kind-of friends with, Alex (Greg Hillman); his mom (Juli Fair); and his cat, Mr. Fluffernutter.

The fellow (an angel? God’s administrative assistant?) assigned to lay out the rules for Roger (played by Ben Clarkson) is, unfortunately, off his game today. He’s neglected to appropriately ease the young man into his new life after death, instead sharing the bizarre rules as he remembers them, in fits and starts, through a series of phone calls to Roger’s apartment, which apparently will be the setting for his eternity. The people are copies. They’re not alive until you activate them with touch, and it should only be done one at a time. Don’t tell them you’re dead. You may never leave. And you only get to make three phone calls for clarification.

But it’s too late—Roger didn’t get his rules on time, so he managed to rapidly break a few, unleashing chaos. In the world the playwright has created, the afterlife is where you spend eternity lying in the bed you made. The six characters (or, really five—Mr. Fluffernutter was a wasted choice) he’s stuck with then spend the entirety of the play rubbing his nose in his flaws and generally annoying the crap out of him. It’s basically my version of hell.

What live theater does best is ask thought-provoking questions and put us in other people’s shoes. I liked what You May Have 6 made me think about. The premise is remarkably provocative. I instantly found myself wondering what six people I might choose—and since I couldn’t even narrow down my six favorite bands if you held a gun to my head, it wasn’t hard to identify with Roger’s plight.

It also made me think that Cathro imagines the afterlife as a test you must pass with no warning or study materials … a frightening prospect indeed. Who among us would pick their six companions any more wisely under that kind of pressure? And God forbid those people were to constantly remind us of all the ways in which we’d screwed up. Even the most saintly of us is bound to have regrets.

The cast is a mixed bag, with many newish performers who come across as too shrill or flat-out unlikable. However, Collins’ performance, with all his hand-wringing and head-rubbing, nicely conveys his anxiety and the injustice of it all. Ryan Kelly, as ever, is exemplary as Roger’s overly loud, foul-mouthed, good-time party bro. And Juli Fair perfectly captures the too-tolerant, well-intentioned, babying mother who clearly set the wheels in motion toward this conclusion years ago.

Without giving too much away, in the scenario presented, Roger is set up to fail. The accusations and chastisements he receives from his companions only focus on his imperfections—all the things that actually made him, and indeed make all of us, human. And as a young man whose life has been cut too short, he never got to learn from those mistakes or improve upon them. In the end, I’m left wondering about Cathro’s point. Billed as a comedy, it’s also pretty dire. Was Roger’s behavior so bad that he deserved this ending? I’m not so sure. And what hope would the rest of us have?

The world premiere of You May Have 6 is onstage at Good Luck Macbeth, 124 W. Taylor Street, in Reno through May 25. Thursday, Friday and Saturday performances start at 7:30 p.m., and a Sunday performance on May 19 begins at 2 p.m. Tickets are available here.