If you're looking to spend an hour with the moderately creepy, then Zombie might be for you. This one-man play -- based on a novella by Joyce Carol Oates -- is about serial killer Quentin, who resembles Jeffrey Dahmer in his desire to create a zombie for his own personal uses. This production was adapted for the stage by Bill Connington, who also acts in the piece. Connington attempts to create a character of extreme emotional control, and he succeeds in doing so; the problem is, this can be very tedious to watch. In similar regards he maintains a nearly monotone, nasal voice for most of the piece, somewhat reminiscent of "Gavin," the Bruce McCulloch character from Kids in the Hall.This could work for the character if there had been more of an underlying menace in his voice; instead it occasionally had a comical effect, often at the worst times.
On the surface, Connington was fairly believable in his role. The dead stare of his eyes gave the impression of one who could do unspeakable things while feeling no sympathy for his victim. The nervous twitching of his hands and arms hinted at the seething emotions that lie just underneath his seemingly placid facade. He was strongly committed to the text (which is good, since he wrote it), and yet there was something crucial that was missing.
Considering the actions and thoughts Quentin describes, one would expect to experience more of a feeling of intimidation being in the same room with such a disturbed individual. However, that was not the case for this audience member, and since Quentin lacks any sympathetic qualities, it becomes more of an hour of observation.
This aspect of the play was acknowledged in its directing, serviceably executed by Thomas Caruso. Caruso has Connington staring out at the audience as if they are behind a one-sided mirror listening to the confessions of a deranged murderer as he relives his monomaniacal quest. Unfortunately the deeper motives behind Quentin's desire to create a zombie are left largely unexplored, which is one of the play's greatest flaws. It takes a similar grazing approach to the issue of race (since most of Quentin's victims are black and he is white), directly addressing the subject without properly studying what this represents. Instead, Zombie relies more on the shock value of Quentin's actions to generate a sense of intrigue for the audience, and if you aren't shocked, then you run the risk of being bored. C. J. Thom
Zombie is playing at The Player's Loft (115 MacDougal St.), NY
Mr. Thom lives in New York City and walks dogs, writes plays, and loves dissecting pop culture.