Eat Your Heart Out: THE REVENANTS

Photo credit: Karen Ladany; Audrey Lynn Sylvia as Karen and William Schuller as Joe

presented by Happy Medium Theatre Company
@The Factory Theatre
Boston, MA
October 12th – 20th, 2012

Happy Medium Theatre Facebook Page

Review by Craig Idlebrook

(Boston) The premise of the zombie apocalypse seems well-suited for allegory. George Romero, the genre’s cinematic Godfather, has used the reanimated to explore every theme from racial tension to internet addiction. Meanwhile, the AMC television series the Walking Dead has found success by throwing a band of survivors together and having them struggle over what separates humans from the masses
of undead. In a way, zombies have become the ultimate MacGuffin, a plot device that stirs our heroes to action and soul-searching.

Strangely, few have explored love through the zombie lens, which makes Scott T. Barsotti’s new play The Revenants all the more ambitious for treading new and fertile ground. Two couples are trapped in a basement during an outbreak of zombie-ness, and one-half of each couple quickly develops a taste for human flesh. The two survivors are left to pick up the pieces and wonder when and how love
dies.

The script shows flashes of underplayed brilliance. Barsotti has a gift for capturing snatches of ordinary conversation and inserting them into bizarre situations for good effect. Unfortunately, he fails to fully develop his underlying hypothesis and the play’s punchline gets muddled. We are left to conjecture about the message we should take to heart. Love eats us up? Love is finite? Zombies are a many splendored thing? I’m still confused.

Director Mikey DiLoreto succeeds in creating believable tension, wisely relying on good stagecraft over marginal special effects to create an omnipresent threat. William Schuller (Joe) deserves kudos for his creepy, yet understated portrayal of a chained zombie. Schuller deftly manipulates his lanky frame to create a creature that acts like a starving contact improv dancer who has been up for four days on
a bad acid trip. I will see him in my dreams tonight, and I don’t think I will be happy about it.

But DiLoreto isn’t as successful in creating the needed tension between the two survivors to make us invest in the outcome. Actors Tim Fairley and Audrey Lynn Sylvia (Gary and Karen) both have good moments, but they don’t seem to be on the same page with one another, which negates their characters’ connection throughout the play and especially during what could be a chilling climax. The actors are not helped by DiLoreto’s blocking, which asks us to believe that Gary would be oblivious to a physical secret Karen is harboring, a secret so important for survival and so telegraphed that any child would notice.

Still, horror on stage rarely succeeds, and this production does create a real edge- of-your-seat tension. While The Revenants does not paint a complete picture, it fills in enough to give theatergoers a delicious case of the willies.

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