Just as the rattling moans and ravaged faces of zombie hordes have crept across television screens and the public’s imagination over the past several years, so now have they arrived in Summit County for the 2013 Halloween season.
The first undead on the scene are to be found in Breckenridge, starting Wednesday at the Backstage Theatre with the tongue-in-cheek play “Zompocalypse . . . Later.” This horror comedy, written by artistic director Christopher Willard, with support from Carisa Peterson, introduces Nate and Zach, who are described as “two stoner-boarders barely getting by in the High Country.” Their opening day party just happens to coincide with the rise of the undead, which causes problems for the duo and their friends as they must do their best to survive the zombie apocalypse.
“I’ve lived in Summit County a long time, and anyone that’s lived here for a long time or even just moved here, you’ll know people like the people in this play,” said actor Jon Hans (“Beauty and the Beast,” “Cannibal! The Musical”), who plays Dick, the characters’ landlord.
This is the first zombie production for Hans, but he’s excited about the concept, which involves a few romantic and coming-of-age story elements, as well as plenty of blood, guts and gore. The special effects are so intense that the front two rows come with a “splatter zone” warning, with suggestions to bring a poncho or make use of plastic bags that will be provided at the door.
Backstage’s John O’Connor “is like the mad scientist of special effects,” Hans said of O’Connor’s zombifying endeavors, which include detaching appendages, rotting flesh and blood.
With its gore, scenes of violence, drug use and adult situations, “Zompocalypse … Later” is designed for a more mature audience and not appropriate for children. But it’s not straight-up horror, either, and has plenty of moments for the audience to laugh.
“There are a lot of different angles to the story. The characters have their unique perspectives, as all people do. I think there’s some really funny stuff in there,” Hans said.
Although he and the rest of the cast have been enjoying rehearsals, the real magic will happen when the audience steps in, he said.
“I can’t wait to get an audience and have them check it out. It always brings a lot of energy when you get a live audience watching you,” he said. “I’m really excited about it and can’t wait for the opening.”
Willard also took some time to explain the origin and the concept of the play to the Summit Daily:
How did you come across this play? Why did you choose it?
We developed the play for a group of our local actors. The idea has been kicking around for awhile — a few years ago, we wrote a sketch for one of our “Locals Lounge” shows that incorporated a few of the character types, situations, jokes — but we never had the hook to make it all work. Last year, we came up with a perfect way to frame the elements we wanted to include in the story. We’re happy to finally get it up on stage in a more fleshed-out (pun intended) version.
Are you a fan of zombies? Do you have a favorite zombie movie/book/play?
I love the zombie genre. How can you not be mad for “The Walking Dead?” And “World War Z” was a lot of fun! Those zombies were wicked fast! Ours move a little slower (they’re stage zombies, so we maximize their time on stage). We use the slow-moving zombified “deadheads” as a metaphor for the stoner/boarder culture that you might encounter up here in Summit County.
Who do you think will enjoy this play?
This is definitely a show for people who enjoyed our past productions of “Cannibal” and “Reefer Madness.” Once a year, we try to program a show that specifically targets our younger audiences. We set a more economical ticket price on this one, put in some mature language, adult situations and even comic drug use. We also poke fun at some of the local boarder types and Summit County in general. It’s nice to use your environment as a backdrop for the story you’re telling. It gives the whole story a sense of freshness and immediacy.
How is this play different from others?
We’ve never done a show like this with such graphic onstage violence, comic though it may be. Blood, guts, severed limbs, gouged eyeballs — it’s a perfect show for Halloween! And I’ve always wanted to do a splatter zone — so jazzed that we got that going! Not to worry, though. Our special effects guru assures us none of the blood effects will stain clothes. You might get a little wet, but that’s about it. Just don’t ingest that zombie blood. It’s toxic!
What can the audience expect from the performance?
The show is going to be a blast! Great performances, killer one-liners, over-the-top blood and gore effects. It’s scary, thrilling, funny and even a little touching. And that’s all you can ask for from a zombie-comedy for Halloween.