Imagine a cross between Waiting for Guffman and Night of the Living Dead,” says director Nick Sholley. “Well, that’s Zombietown.”
Opening this weekend at Santa Rosa’s Left Edge Theater, Tim Bauer’s 2009 comedy is a clever blend of horror movie spoof and social-theatrical satire. If that sounds like a strange mix, it is, and that’s the point. While the play definitely does describe what happens when a small Texas town is invaded by a horde of ravenous, brain-chomping undead, Zombietown is primarily focused on an even more desperate and voracious breed of creature.
“Trust me, actors can be pretty scary,” says Sholley.
Following a messy zombie attack on the small town of Harwood, the plucky townsfolk consider themselves extremely fortunate, and ready for anything else that might happen—anything but a troop of actors from San Francisco. Eager to interview the shell-shocked survivors and create a piece of “documentary theater” about the recent zombie uprising, five members from the Catharsis Collective have come to town to collect the residents’ true stories and turn it into a play. Now, the company is ready to present that play to the people of Harwood, confident it will help the town recover from its trauma through what they call “the transformative healing power of theater.”
“We’re making fun of some of the more extravagant tropes of the whole ‘documentary theater’ art form,” Sholley says. “When characters take themselves too seriously, they do become laughable. We’ve been working toward a balance between that, while adding a bit of lampooning.”
The play features Ron Severdia, Rose Roberts, A.J. Reilly, John Browning, and Anthony Martinez, and—befitting a show launched just before Halloween—is crammed with haunted house special effects by local haunt-master Doug Faxon, and some supremely spooky lighting design by April George.
“We have some very cool things planned, though I don’t want to spoil anything for the audience,” Sholley hints, “because I want them to be as surprised as we all were.”
With Left Edge’s comic flesh-eaters unleashing the same weekend as Spreckels’ much-anticipated Titanic: The Musical and Main Stage West’s lyrical Dancing at Lughnasa, Sholley says that all the competition is anything but scary.
“Who knows, maybe our play will make people as hungry for theater as zombies are for brains,” he says. “Once you’ve had one, you just can’t get enough!”