Monday, October 6, 2014

The Last Days—Post5 Theatre—NE Portland


The Great, Full Dead

This Halloween-type drama is written by Carlos Cisco and directed and designed by Rusty Tennant.  It is playing at their current space at 850 NE 81st Ave. (Note:  they will be moving to their new space for the rest of the season at 1666 NE Lambert St.).  For more information on the show and their new space, go to their site at www.post5theatre.org

Okay, this show is about Zombies and is a perfect Halloween show.  There certainly have been plenty of movies about them.  The best early ones were Lewton’s atmospheric, I Walked With A Zombie and White Zombie, with Lugosi, both quite good.  A semi-factual one came out a number of years ago called The Serpent and the Rainbow, also not bad.  But Romero owns the genre with his Night of the Living Dead and his subsequent sequels Return of…, Dawn of…, and Day of….

There are some rules that go with this genre.  Originally they were created for cheap labor through some voodoo rituals but most of the later incarnations of these creatures, including this play, disregard that rule.  But the constants are that if you are bitten by one, you become one in a short period of time.  Also they eat flesh and a delicacy for them is the brains.  And the best way to kill them is to shoot them through the head.  In short, they are mindless, eating machines, who seem to be immortal.

This is about four survivors of a Zombie take-over that have holed up in a cabin in some mountainous woods somewhere.  Shep (Orion Bradshaw, co-founder of Post5) is a survivalist and self-appointed, Leader of the Pack, an anti-hero.  He carries The Regulator (a baseball bat with pointy nails, a type of Medieval Mace) with him wherever he goes, keeps himself in tip-top shape and has a mean pick-up.  His wife is Larina (Cassandra Boice, Associate Artistic Director).  She is also is tip-top shape (Ow!) and is dressed to kill.  She has her weaknesses, though, canned green beans, her brother and is haunted by memories of her family and the fact that she has never had any closure to their deaths.

Another member of this intrepid troop is Val (Ernie Lijoi), Larina’s brother, a bear of a man but with a soft heart, who has no taste for killing.  He loves his sister dearly, lumbers about the place in some confusion and has a deadly secret.  And lastly, there is Miguel, (Chip Sherman, a long-time member of the company), an intellectual and Val’s lover.  He is a tender, thoughtful soul but can be brutal if the occasion arises.  He is the calm center of this hurricane-like mass of individuals.

One would expect this to be a tongue-in-cheek (no pun intended) take on a very familiar tale (to us horror buffs).  But, although there is some dark humor, it is a pretty straight-forward story of people trying to survive after a holocaust.  And part of that survival means getting along with each other and leaning to compromise, which is not the strong suit of any of these characters.  It also adds a twist by the second act in which they are allowed to reflect on their fears and hopes, so the audience can become aware of what they are thinking and feeling.  Quite effective.  This script by Cisco definitely has the makings of a film.

This four-person cast is a virtual powerhouse of talent, exploding on the stage with a force to be reckoned with.  Zombies are no match for the artistic quality of this production!  Grateful survivors we all be.  Bradshaw is always a stand-out in all he does.  His survivalist would match anything that a Schwarzenegger could dish out.  Sherman, also, is thrilling to watch in all his stage incarnations.  His character here gives hope to the artistic nature of mankind.  Boice is a knock-out and a triple threat in the Art world (actor, writer & director).  She has it all and, in this production, gives us a powerful example of what a woman can and should do in this so-called “man’s world.”  And Lijoi presents us with the dual nature of a man, sensitive yet macho.  A touching performance.

And Tennant is no slouch in wearing several hats in theatre (director, actor, designer/builder, and fight choreographer).  Of course he has a dynamite cast to work with but he also has managed to stage it, using most of the theatre space for this sprawling cabin.  It gives you a sense that you are in there with them.  And his cabin design is super with shingles and see-through slats that, with his unique lighting, give an eerie effect.  The man who can do everything, has done everything that could be done with this show.

I recommend this show and it’s probably fine for teens and up, but there is adult language and some stylized violence and suggested sex.  If you do go, please tell them Dennis sent you.