Smile Politely

Creature Double Feature delivers zombie fun

Actors appear on stage for Zombie Prom, wearing traditional 50s attire, they all stand facing the audience singing
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What’s more bad-boy than taking the “H” out of the name Jonny? Becoming undead through the power of love, of course. Parkland’s Creature Double Feature is two shows about teenage zombies, with a striking amount of romance given the deadly premise. To open, 10 Ways to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse lays out a hilarious guide for zombie apocalypse, and the cast of Zombie Prom puts on an impressively fun show about a zombie whose defining characteristic before and after becoming undead is the lack of “H” in his name.

Zombie Prom is either High School Musical with some extra undeadness, or Romeo and Juliet with half the death. Set in 1958 where the highest stakes are senior prom, cutesy good-girl Toffee (Tina Radi) falls in love with Jonny-without-the-H (Kyle Klein II). The plot is Toffee’s decision between Jonny and “Rules, Regulation and Respect.” Principal Delilah Strict takes offense at the lack of H in Jonny, and orchestrates Jonny and Toffee’s breakup, the impetus of Jonny’s dive into the nuclear waste dump. His following transformation allows Principal Strict’s attention to (slightly) shift from the H to Jonny’s undead status and a conflict over zombie discrimination to ensue.

zombies dancing and singing on stage in fifties attire including poodle skirts and leather jackets
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The songs of Zombie Prom (John Dempsey, Dana P. Rowe) are catchy but repetitive, but the voices of the main cast make up for it. Eddie Flagrante (Andrew Simek) and Delilah Strict (Emily Hogan) sing “Exposé,” which is surprisingly sexual given the rest of the show, and excellently performed.

Zombie Prom’s set is cleverly designed to allow for a variety of locations with minimal transitions. A nuclear smokestack rises and falls in the background, while, in the middle ground, sleds pull classrooms and offices on and off stage. The large set is also used to set a bright tone with yellow and purple, occasionally transformed by lighting effects into nuclear green at the most dramatic moments. The set design, along with the small pit orchestra, heavy on the bass and synth, adds an ‘80s comic book feel to a play otherwise explicitly set in the ‘50s. The costumes largely stick to the ‘50s aesthetic, with frequent attention to detail, especially in the culminating prom sequence.

Actors perform 10 Ways to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse in front of a red curtain on stage. One actor is wielding a comically large fake chainsaw
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The Double Feature begins with 10 Ways to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse. More a twist on instructive skits than story, with proposed methods starting with “Sacrifice the Weak,” and “Trick the Zombies,” it is meta both in its use of the narrator-character dynamic, and its references to zombie media. Its feel of “teen movie with injection of zombies” ties it together with Zombie Prom. In “Method V: Raise Genetically Modified Killer Dogs Which Can Attack and Destroy Zombies,” Christy (Jera Sotero) declares, “I’d help, but I’m really selfish,” which is as good a quote as any to sum up all ten survival tips. Her matching pink quilted jacket-skirt combo alongside an entitled attitude give the performance the feeling of Regina George post-apocalypse.

The script of 10 Ways (Don Zolidis) is not as clever as it thinks it is at times, but the cast turn it into a charming short play. Due to the pairing with Zombie Prom, the performance is limited to the stage in front of the curtain. They get creative with the shallow space and incorporate the curtain itself into the performance along with minimal set pieces. The writing and performance both peak with “Method VII: Reason with the Zombies.” In this scene, the actors are given the most time between running and screaming.

Actors perform 10 Ways to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse in front of a red curtain on stage. They appear as zombies with arms outstretched
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Parkland Theatre is performing their Creature Double Feature at the Harold and Jean Miner Theatre November 9–19. 10 Ways to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse is directed by Melissa Goldman, and the cast and majority of the crew is comprised of Parkland students. Zombie Prom, directed by Jacob Deters, is a community theater production with a combination of community and Parkland contributors. Photosensitive viewers should be aware the shows do use strobe lighting. As for the violence often expected of zombies, neither show has gore: in 10 Ways, the zombies drag the humans off stage to eat them before they return to illustrate the next survival method, and Zombie Prom features a non-violent zombie. Content warning for suicide, though the dead character returns (as a zombie).

Both shows are lighthearted, without trying to send a big message. Zombies would be scary, but they’re probably not real, right? Teenage love drives the stories of both plays. If you try to look for a lesson in either, it might be something about queerness, but that would be a stretch. They’re just funny plays about young zombies, well executed by the cast and crew.

Creature Double Feature
Parkland College Theatre
Nov 9-19
Th, F, Sa 7:30 p.m.
Su 3 p.m.

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