“If you want to be called at The End Times, start today.”

So says Nelson, the charismatic leader of a cult in Pullman, Washington. Like George Orwell’s “Big Brother,” Nelson barks his messages to his followers through an invasive speaker system. But in Jesse Mu-En Shao’s play “The End Times”, now having its world premiere at the Skylight Theater, Nelson actually appears on-screen, rather than being merely a faceless voice.

And the face is a familiar one. It’s Joe Spano, whose image is projected multiple times on a series of screens that surround his disciples. He appears on-screen without warning to instruct them, harangue them, and admonish them. To all of which they murmur a soft “Amen.”

The play itself comes from the experience of the playwright as a member of a group that is still practicing today. He calls his fictional church The Lord’s Restoration.

In common with most religious cults, The Lord’s Restoration demands that its followers sever all ties with their family, friends, and former lives. “Christ must be your first love,” Nelson tells them. “Give the Lord first place. Take care of His needs and He will take care of your needs.”

Unlike the Jewish people who are waiting for their Messiah to come, or Christians who are waiting for their martyred Messiah to return, the people of The Lord’s Restoration are urged to develop an all-consuming personal relationship with an ever-present deity.

The action is developed as four young acolytes accept or begin to question the teachings and practices they have been steeped in since birth. They are guided by Jamie (Nick Cimiluca), a religious martinet whose main goal appears to be ensuring that everyone adheres to Nelson’s directives as they prepare for when the Lord comes back to usher in The End Times.

Most fervent is Tim (Christian T. Chan), who is attempting to dissuade his lifelong friend Evan (Matt Pascua) from leaving the church. Evan, who has been wavering in his heretofore unquestioning devotion, is reluctant to sign a rigid “contract” which delineates the rules by which acolytes are to live their lives. A young girl, Ruthann (Mariah Robinson), joins the discussion and advises the two men not to let an earthly relationship distract them from the Bible. Reassured, Tim and Evan sing a song with lyrics that begin “I’m so happy in this lovely place…”

But the happiness doesn’t last long. Evan is eventually forced to leave the church because, as Jamie explains, he lives too much “in his mind” rather than “in his spirit.” For Evan, it’s all downhill from there.

Meanwhile, Tim finally summons up the courage to confess his love to Ruthann, who reacts with amazement and disbelief, even though she has been coyly flirting with him since her first appearance in the play.

And then Seth (Alexander Pimentel) joins the group. More smarmily religious than the others, he swiftly becomes a star in Jamie’s eyes … and Ruthann’s too.

“The End Times” is a mildly interesting play vociferously presented under the direction of Jon Lawrence Rivera. But sadly, Mu-En Shao’s ending is both implausible and unconvincing and can’t help but leave the viewer feeling vaguely dissatisfied.

The play is a joint production of the Skylight Theatre Company and Playwrights’ Arena. It will be presented Fridays and Saturdays at 8:30 pm and Sundays at 3 p.m. through May 15th at the Skylight Theatre, 1816 1/2 North Vermont Ave., Los Angeles. For tickets call (213) 761-7061.