ZT is great story telling, more so than ghouls
By Mike Sanford, GLOB Editor
I have never been a big fan of zombie movies. First, it's awfully hard to engage in character study when the character's compelling features are a chopped up face, bad clothes, and a very bad limp. Secondly, mindless, unappealing, scarily boring creatures are bad enough in the real world, let alone on stage.
The Hippodrome Theatre's Zombie Town A Documentary Play has brought to life a masterful story in Tim Bauer's screenplay about Harwood, Texas, which, in a very short time, was overtaken by 'reanimated corpse' creatures.
There are creepy, ghoulish, man-eating zombies in every scene of Zombie Town. Some of those zombies just happen to also be very good dancers since the rhythm of your soul must 'pass over' along with the other components of your psyche that are passing over.
I hope this isn't a spoiler alert, but the zombies were actually not even the focus of this tightly-written, fast- paced screenplay that sometimes had a dozen characters on the stage. By my count, the five actors in this play played a total of 24 different characters, and that's not counting the zombies!
Once again Hipp Artistic Director and Zombie Town Director, Lauren Caldwell, demonstrates her unique artistic timing, juxtoposition, and down right clever style in a compelling approach to story telling.
From Slash Murphy – played by Logan Wolfe - to Didi Drago – played by Michelle Bellaver, the viewer is quickly pulled into this story of two student film makers visually recording the zombies overrunning Harwood..
The simply decorated stage provided stark emphasis to the grisly story of how Flash, Didi, Mayor Arnsen, an anatomy teacher, a tavern owner, and many more in Harwood dealt with the horror of friends and family being eaten alive. Yet you have to laugh outloud, since this Andy of Mayberry small town is taken over by Gomers, Floyds, and Goobers and things just get worse building to an ending I did not expect.
With so many characters flashing before my eyes it was fun waiting to see which Harwood citizen's observation would be next.
In a character-driven play like Zombie Town it was easy to see the ensemble cast playing off each other's talents.
The roses go to actress Michele Bellaver who, as stereotypical teenager Didi Drago, charmed the GLOB Master and, as tavern owner Willa Mae Jesper, mad me chuckle. Let's hope Ms. Bellaver stays in Harwoo . . . er, Gainesvile for a while. She was also the standout kitchen temp turned mistress, sister, and lover in Don't Dress for Dinner.
The fine acting of Logan Wolfe turned the character of Slash Murphy into my current hero. Slash likes tunes, women, and a real good time in the Harwood grave yard. Slash's observations about zombies taking over his world is a perfect example of ignorance being blissful. Especially with a handy six-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon on hand.
I am a big fan of tunes. I like all kinds of music. I smiled when Slash started talking about his favorite heavy metal bands. Being a full grown male, I especially appreciated the dancing of actress Marissa Toogood's teenage character Hannah, and her getting down in the graveyard to some serious 'Highway to Hell' vibes.
The intensity of the actors gave me a real sense that the city of Harwood was in big trouble. The fun and mishaps of the characters combined with such ghoulish thoughts of being eaten alive had the GLOB Master on the edge of his seat anxiously waiting for the next character in this documentary play to fill in the blanks of what really happened when Harwood, Texas, was eaten alive.
Zombie Town is now running through November 3 at the Hippodrome Theatre. Follow this link for more information.