'Zombie Town: A Documentary Play' takes over the Hipp stage starting Friday

“Zombie Town: A Documentary Play” features, from left, Annelih Garciano-Holganza Hamilton, Kenneth Smoak, Nichole Hamilton, Josh Hamilton and Marissa Toogood as zombies who terrorize a Texas town, starting Friday at the Hippodrome Theatre.

Erica Brough/Staff photographer
Published: Thursday, October 10, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, October 8, 2013 at 5:05 p.m.

Zombies are coming, and they aren't coming for money, or power or even life; they want one thing — your brain.


'Zombie Town: A Documentary Play'

What: Tim Bauer's play about documentarians reconstructing the night zombies terrorized a Texas town
When: Opens Friday with a preview at 8 tonight, showtimes are 7 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 5 and 8:30 p.m. Saturdays, and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sundays through Nov. 3
Where: Hippodrome Theatre, 25 SE Second Place
Tickets: $30-$35, $25 for senior citizens, $15 for students; tickets for tonight's preview are $15 and $18
Info: 375-4477, www.thehipp.org

Welcome to “Zombie Town: A Documentary Play,” which opens at the Hippodrome Theatre on Friday. Set in Harwood, Texas, the play follows a group of documentarians trying to reconstruct the details of a night when reanimated corpses climbed from their graves and terrorized residents of the quiet Texas town. As stories go, it doesn't get more Halloween than that.

“We have a reputation for making sure the town gets a big dose of Halloween,” says director Lauren Caldwell. “I've never seen such an obsession with zombies. I think they have made a comeback and are the height of their popularity. We are hitting this at a good time.”

Caldwell says that even though the play's script doesn't call for actual zombies, she put them in because, “I can't imagine a play called 'Zombie Town' without zombies.”

The result is an ensemble cast in which a few actors play multiple human roles, and the rest lurch around demanding brains, eating flesh and occasionally breaking into choreographed dance routines.

“It's really the perfect Halloween show for where our culture is today,” says Michelle Bellaver, who plays five different residents. “Zombies are hot.”

For the human actors, playing so many different characters means having to switch accents, wardrobe and points of view at breakneck speed.

“It can be a challenge,” says Josh Price, who also plays five characters, including a radio DJ who alerts the town to the zombie attack. “You have to be able to let go quickly and jump into the next thing.”

Matthew Lindsay, another five-character actor, agrees.

“It's a fragmented process,” he says, to which Bellaver adds, “It's nonlinear storytelling.”

Part of that nonlinear storytelling is the documentary conceit of the play. The characters are merely recounting a past experience, rather than going through it in real time. This setup offers both challenges and opportunities, Bellaver says.

“Not only are they telling the story, but they also get to comment on it,” she says. “For the theatergoers, I think it will be fun because you're not only getting the story, you're also getting an opinion on it. For us, we have to believe that whatever we're saying is actually happening. We have to make sure the stakes are high. The special effects amp it up.”

For the zombie actors, the play seems to be pure joy.

“I think that's one of the reasons we get into acting,” says Hippodrome veteran and zombie impersonator Nichole Hamilton. “To do things that will really connect with an audience and let them have fun.”

Fun seems to be the key word in “Zombie Town.” Even though the play is about undead corpses feasting on living humans, it is carried off with a sense of humor and parody, even poking fun at theater culture. And that spirit turns the macabre into comedy.

“The zombies are ridiculous as well as scary,” says Logan Wolfe, who only has to play four characters.

While there is some strong language that might not be suitable for young children, the play is just scary enough, but not too scary for older children, Bellaver adds.

“I don't think we'd scare them too bad,” she says, to which Price shoots back, “We might eat their brains though.”

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