Ever wondered if you could shoot your mate if they turned into a zombie? (I know that’s a common discussion around my house, but hey, we’re horror specialists!) Our esteemed editor and guest writer, Jude Mire had the opportunity to see a great new horror play in Chicago that centers around just that question. So?…Could you? This play will make you think twice.
A revenant is a fancy name for a zombie, and there’s no denying that zombies rule the new millennium. Their popularity has passed up the other monsters and they’ve stolen first place from those all too smug vampires. The latest sign that we’re living in the age of the living dead comes from WildClaw’s fantastic new play, The Revenants.
It starts with a car crash, a narrow escape, and all the chaos that would come with a zombie pandemic. We’re left in a basement with two survivors, Karen and Gary (played by Jenny Strubin and Ryan Patrick Dolan), and their respective spouses, Molly and Joe (Laura Hooper and Brian Amidei). Of course, Molly and Joe are dead. Neither of the living partners is willing to kill their loved ones, so they come up with the novel idea of tethering them on leashes in the basement.
Now, you might think; “Why wouldn’t they just kill them and move on?” Why indeed? Anyone who thinks that they’d actually be able to kill the people they love without emotion, thought, or conflict, just isn’t being realistic. In a strange way, The Revenants is very realistic. Karen and Gary have to, literally, face the deaths of their marriages. As the play evolves they both work through their own forms of denial and grow closer to one another through the struggle.
While the relationship drama builds, there is tangible apprehension about the zombies. They moan, lurch, and stretch at the ends of their leashes, gnashing teeth and trying to bite. Karen and Gary, engrossed in their own conversations, repeatedly stand too close for comfort, inches from straining claws. They’re always one misstep away from being grabbed and bitten, but they hardly seem to notice. The tension this adds to already charged dialogue is gut wrenching and wonderful!
As for the zombies, they’re not always grabby. They wander, bump the walls, and seem to listen to the living conversations. It causes you to wonder if they really are still alive somewhere deep down inside. Laura and Brian make a pair of captivating corpses!
Scott T. Barsotti, the plays author, has hit the nail on the head when it comes to zombies. It’s not really about the zombies; it’s about the people left behind. In all good zombie stories, the living dead are the pressure, the impetus to drive the characters. Most well-done zombie stories have more in common with disaster stories than monster tales. This is a disaster that destroys two couples and how they deal with it.
As far as production value goes, WildClaw has upped the bar. This play is top notch! There’s no shortage of gore to go with the drama; spreading infections, rotten meat, self-mutilation! This is just about as close as you’ll ever come to seeing a live bullet to the head!
The Revenants is not to be missed!