Consider it an appetizer to your Halloween festivities, served up by Backstage at The Players. A Florida premiere, “Zombie Town: a Documentary Play” fits perfectly in the intimate, tattered-black-curtain style minimalist space, which was conceived to promote edgier, contemporary works.
Written by bay area playwright Tim Bauer, the play is more accurately called a mockumentary in that it parodies eyewitness reports popular on television and some theatrical events. The main conceit is that the “Catharsis Theatre Collective,” from San Francisco, arrive in the town of Harwood, Texas, which has recently survived a horrific zombie attack, in order to interview the survivors and “bring these people the healing that can only come from theater.” Clearly, the piece derives most of its comedy from sardonic remarks, taking shots at hokey Texans and Frisco intellectuals in equal measure. The farcical elements worked best for me, however, and my favorite bit was the delightfully ludicrous “Undead Chorus Line” at the end. More dancing zombies please!
Tightly directed by Linda MacCluggage, the first act consists mainly of interviews with various townspeople. Although much of the dialogue is cleverly, if subtly, written, the result is somewhat slow-going. Pulling off this type of past-tense narrative satire is demanding and requires performers who are comically gifted in their own right. Fortunately for the playwright, this was supplied in abundance by the cast.
Wearing a loud plaid jacket, Adam Garrison kick-starts the introductions as Mayor Anson. After reference to the town’s graveyard, known as Boca del Inferno (Hell Mouth), Chuck Conlon takes over as the grave-digger who muses “Did I sleep dig?” over the mysteriously open graves. All five cast members play multiple roles believably as they become various townspeople, as well as the members of the “Collective.”
The second act moves more quickly, with three characters trapped in an old farmhouse by hordes of somnolent zombies. Always funny, Christine Alexander (who also portrays a thick-skinned tavern owner) plays Annie Dalton, a superficial girlie-girl who nevertheless is the first to note that zombies are slow. Ren Pearson is energetic as a Led Zeppelin-loving hyperactive rock and roller. A presumably intelligent accountant is well-played by David Tyler Murrell.
IF YOU GO
‘Zombie Town: A Documentary Play’
When: 8 p.m. Oct. 18 to 20; 2 p.m. Oct. 21
Where: Backstage at The Players, 838 N. Tamiami Trail
Tickets: $15; Oct. 19 college special with student i.d., $10
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