'Evil Dead': Dress for a bloodbath
When I was in college, a film school friend of mine made what I thought to be the best parody movie (sans production quality) ever. The plot involved a society of zombies who mysteriously transform into something truly hideous — YOUNG CONSERVATIVES! THEY'RE COMING FOR YOUR HIGH TAX RATES AND LOOSE MORALITY — RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!
Admittedly a gratuitous swipe at right-wing politicos, the idea of a "normal" zombie society becoming infected by a swarm of Alex Keatons was a hilarious concept. For the last 20 years, I believed that no one could create a better zombie parody.
Until now, that is. The Celebration Company at the Urbana Station Theatre has raised the bar for necrophiles everywhere with its latest production, "Evil Dead: The Musical."
Somehow I missed the George Reinblatt spoof of the horror franchise with the same name, a major international work in the style of "The Rocky Horror Show" and "Little Shop of Horrors."
The plot follows the narrative from the first two films in the original Evil Dead trilogy, decimating any concept of actual horror with diabolical acting, camp humor, bawdy sexual displays and endless quantities of (fake) blood and dismembered body parts.
The play is not for the faint of heart. "Juvenile," "gross," "prurient" and "obscene" are adjectives that really do not come close to describing its decadent and disturbing qualities. Pearl clutchers and those afraid of being sprayed with fake blood should not attend (seriously, this show features an audience "splash zone"). On the other hand, those with an open mind and a love of absurd comedy are in for a real treat.
Directed by Mikel L. Matthews and choreographed by Whitney Havice, the show continues the Station's almost unworldly tradition of staging action and dance-heavy performances in a space that seems smaller than a one-car garage. A quartet led by Tommy Howie manages to squeeze into the corner to provide adept musical accompaniment.
Set in an old cabin in the woods, the stage is clothed by Brad O'Neill and Shara Keen in a rag-tag collection of old furniture and knickknacks that give a rustic feel, which, due to the blood and gore, appear to be doomed after every performance.
However good the story, none of it would matter if the actors were not committed to pulling it off, and this work requires a William Shatner-level of camp that is not always possible. Fortunately, we have the talent of Michael Steen (excellent in the lead character, Ash), the deft moves of Christopher Brown (as his morally depraved friend, Scott) and the versatility of Madeline Knight-Dixon, Ellen Fred and Laura Anne Welle (as their respective girlfriends Linda and Shelly, and Ash's sister, Cheryl) who transition perfectly from dimwitted college students into demons hellbent on consuming the flesh of the living while making the audience howl with laughter.
Some may question why a company this good goes for material this "bad." My response is that performance must challenge boundaries, make the disturbing accessible, transform what is unbearable into something memorable.
In this instance, the Station Theatre and the Celebration Company not only raise the dead, they bring the house down. I wait with fascinated anticipation for what they will try next.
If you go
What: Celebration Company presents "Evil Dead: The Musical," with book and lyrics by George Reinblatt and music by Frank Cipolla, Christopher Bond, Melissa Morris and Reinblatt; directed by Mikel Matthews Jr., with music direction by Aaron Kaplan and choreography by Whitney Havice.
When: 8 p.m. today; Wednesday through July 7; July 10-13.
Where: Station Theatre, 223 N. Broadway Ave., U.
Tickets: $10 on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays; $15 on Fridays and Saturdays (discount of $1 available upon request for students with ID and senior citizens older than 61).
Information: 384-4000; www. stationtheatre.com.
Chad Beckett, a local attorney, has reviewed all manner of performances at local venues for The News-Gazette since 1995. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.