By Steven J. Smith • Theatre Critic • SCENE Magazine
Photo by Mark Palmer • Mars Vision
As one character in Tim Bauer’s “Zombie Town: A Documentary Play” so aptly puts it, “Zombie attacks are all fun and games — until they happen to you!”
Billed as “a play that has brains … and eats them, too,” this ferociously funny and irreverent comedy that director Linda MacCluggage discovered at the Orlando Shakespeare Theatre’s festival of new plays last year is the perfect Halloween trick or treat, playing Oct. 11-14 and 18-21 at Backstage at the Players — an intimate 60-seat black box spinoff space, accessed through the south side rear door of the theater’s main building.
Tautly directed by Ms. MacCluggage, the show is a parody of so-called “eyewitness theater,” which tells the story of a San Francisco actors’ collective that travels to Harwood, Texas — the scene of an unexpected and hilariously grisly zombie attack. The wonderful five-person cast, Ren Pearson, Chuck Conlon, Christine Alexander, Adam Garrison, and David Tyler Murrell, comprises the theatre troupe — and by extension the town’s citizenry — in telling the story of reanimated corpses that wreak havoc on the sleepy backwoods town.
It’s too hard to praise one cast member over another. Suffice it to say they all do a phenomenal job of embodying the wonderfully diverse and hysterically funny Harwood denizens. Just hang on to your seat as they throw you head over heels into the mystifying developments that have led to the reawakening of several hundred of Harwood Cemetery’s occupants. What caused it? Was it a delayed after-effect of radiation released from the Manhattan Project? Is Harwood a “Hellmouth” — an inter-dimensional portal known to exist only in one or two other cities, including Cleveland, Ohio? One thing’s for sure. Things are not normal in Harwood.
A word about Backstage at the Players. If you haven’t seen a show there, you should. Its goal is to produce challenging and compelling contemporary work in a spirit of adventure for actors and audiences alike. Be prepared, however. The plays are edgier than the more family-friendly fare offered on the Players’ mainstage. The language can get a little rough, too, so be forewarned. But if you enjoy a theatre experience that challenges, pokes, and prods you — as I do — you’re going to love it. I saw their production of “Three Tall Women” last season and it was just marvelous. Kudos to the Players for taking this stimulating and trailblazing step forward.
So go see “Zombie Town.” Then be sure to tell your friends. And remember: Kill the brain and you kill the ghoul!
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