Thursday, July 14, 2011
Our Town - with zombies - live in NY
How the Day Runs Down
by John Langan
Nicu's Spoon Theatre
Reviewed by Clare Deming
Visitors, commuters, and inhabitants of New York City should watch out for zombies on their streets this month. How the Day Runs Down, written by John Langan, opened last weekend at Nicu's Spoon Theatre on W 38th Street. Langan's fiction has previously appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, The Best Horror of the Year, Volume 2, and his collection, Mr. Gaunt and Other Uneasy Encounters (Prime Books, 2008). "How the Day Runs Down" was first published in The Living Dead (Night Shade Books, 2008), edited by John Joseph Adams, and was written as a play. Described by the theatre as "Our Town" but with zombies, this production takes the source material and makes very few changes in the transition to the stage.
Blood-streaked walls and haunting music greeted me in the tiny theatre. The Stage Manager (Mark Armstrong) narrates the story of the town of Goodhope Crossing amid a zombie incursion. Within commuting distance of New York City, Goodhope Crossing is full of "normal" people and the plot examines how they react when faced with the supernatural threat. In the early scenes, a churchgoer tries to halt the advance of his zombified pastor, and two siblings hope to prevent their grandmother from rising out of the earth. In the most chilling and longest section, Elizabeth A. Bell plays a housewife and relates the events of the day that the zombies invaded her quiet street. The kids watch a DVD in the next room while she boils water for mac and cheese and reminisces about good-natured squabbles with her husband. Elizabeth A. Bell's performance was perfect and allowed me to achieve the suspension of disbelief necessary to the experience. By evoking these details of everyday life the horror of the later events is amplified. If this could happen in such a normal suburb to such a real person, then surely it must be true. And if the events are all true, then I am genuinely horrified by what happens.
The sound effects consisted mainly of screams and were jarring and loud. However, that is appropriate for a scream, I believe. The set was sparse and dark, with few props to distract from the actors - just some headstones, rifles, and a pot for boiling water. The lighting was also simple, but most of the show involved one or two speaking actors with zombies lurking at the periphery, so this was suitable. The zombie actors held vacant stares amazingly well and I don't know how they managed to avoid blinking for so long. I enjoyed the costumes - my favorite zombies were Jon Rios as the Skateboard Zombie and Sammy Mena as Ms. No-Face. Gore was minimal other than some blood-stained clothing and Ms. No-Face's mess of a face.
The show ran for ninety minutes with no intermission. Cold soda and water were available for purchase. The only problem that detracted from my enjoyment was that the seating was uncomfortable - plain straight backed chairs that could have used more padding. If you're a zombie fan I would definitely recommend this show, and for non-fans, I think it would still provide a good evening of entertainment.
How the Day Runs Down is playing Wednesday through Saturday at 8:00 pm and Sundays at 2:00 pm through July 24. Tickets are available at: http://spoontheater.org.