“It’s a really bad time to be a human being.”– Shelly Reid as Rebecca Watkins
Our delightfully offbeat friends at The Alley Theater are packing even more guts than usual. Sure, they may be the maggot-covered, festering axe-wound sort of guts, but InHuman:A Festival of the New American Undead Theater boasts more than enough of the aforementioned entrails to go around, and indeed serves as a refreshingly gore-tastic reprieve from similarly named and comparatively far-less-daring (but yeah, less messy too) counterparts. One of ten post-mortem premieres continuing through the end of March, “Mama Didn’t Raise No Zombie” was written by Brian Walker (veteran playwright and artistic director of Louisville-based Finnigan Productions) and explores the plight of the inhabitants of a family farm on the outskirts of town. Oh, and the city’s been overrun by Zombies.
“Mama Didn’t Raise No Zombie” opens on the Watkins farm as the family attempts to provide birthday-boy Cody (Carter Mullins) with some sense of normalcy, despite the fact that his mother is missing, there’s an electrified fence around the porch to keep the walkers out and his already-turned uncle (Alley vet John Aurelius) is chained up in the corner. Attempting to keep things upbeat are the overzealously cheerful matriarch Rebecca (Shelly Reid) and the snarky young lovebirds played by April Singer and Riker Hill, while the sloth-like, news-obsessed and doomsday-declaring father Hank (Phillip M. Bailey) is no help at all. But the relative safety of the farm can only last so long, and as the nation-spanning zombie plaque brings few additional friends and plenty of undead enemies it’s clear that a zombified uncle is the least of the family’s woes.
The no-budget frills are aided immensely throughout by a series of excellent, pre-recorded radio broadcasts (providing the characters on-stage with news updates) which feature the likes of WFPL voice talent Gabe Bullard, Laura Ellis, Stan Cook and Kristin Espeland. Beginning with an extended segment at the start and continuing throughout the play, these recordings flesh-out the world outside the farm and once again demonstrate that real-life newscasters doing comedy is always a riot. (Full disclosure: I laughed out-loud with sheer giddiness at first hearing Stan Cook’s narration, only to sheepishly realize that not everyone in the audience was quite as big of an NPR geek.)
Performances in “Mama Didn’t Raise No Zombie” are largely fun across the board but assisted greatly by highlights April Singer, Riker J. Hill and Shelly Reid. April is the perfect mixture of bubbly and increasingly vulnerable while Riker (her on-stage husband) is kept plenty busy sporting an inordinate numbers of hats, including loving uncle, beer-drinking cynic and exasperated son. Shelly Reid carries what is possibly the largest dramatic duty of the trio, with her center-stage decent from resolute caregiver to more-than-questionabe sanity, while Philip M. Bailey is additionally quite entertaining as the emotionally and verbally distanced father Hank (as well as being the production’s director), if only just a bit too soft-spoken.
Taking advantage of the current wave of zombie-chic gripping the country (as perpetuated by AMC’s The Walking Dead and others), The Alley’s Theater‘s InHuman Festival is undoubtedly smack-dab on the center of the pop-cultural pulse and “Mama Didn’t Raise No Zombie” is among the best going on therein. Overall blood-soaked satisfaction is slightly diminished by the lack of any true gore but rest-assured, the floor will be thoroughly stained by play’s end. With performances continuing through March 24th, “Mama Didn’t Raise No Zombie” is a gleefully repulsive zombie-drama that boasts a great deal of fun wrapped up in B-movie charm.
More on The Alley and “Momma Didn’t Raise No Zombie”, including showtimes and tickets, available via the theater’s website. InHuman:A Festival of the New American Undead Theater lurches on until the end of March and also features a second full-length piece entitled “Zombie! A New Musical” alongside two collections of shorts (“Death Quad” and “Four Pack of Death”).
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