I’m not a huge fan of Halloween. Sure, there is candy and the pageantry of dressed-up kids. I can dig that. I’m talking about dark, stormy fall nights where bad things can happen. I don’t like walking in a desolate neighborhood with the leaves blowing giving off a “To Kill A Mockingbird” vibe. And I hate how a masked person can walk into a bar of costume-clad folks stab one of them and be shrouded in the revelry. I’m never looking for someone to scare me. I even avoid haunted houses.
Strawdog Theatre Company’s Hugen Hall presents the Midwest premiere of Tony Burgess’s PONTYPOOL. Grant Mazzy has gone from big-time shock jock to small-town morning DJ. Going for a comeback, Grant loves to tease out the sensational in the humdrum town of Pontypool, Illinois. Sydney, his producer, tries to bridle his fast-talking, bulldozer style. He relentlessly persists. When rumors of a doctor’s office attack surface, Grant pounces on the potential breaking news moment. Is it a hoax? Or is that a zombie at the door? PONTYPOOL scared the crap out of me!
Playwright Tony Burgess adapts his novel “Pontypool Changes Everything” to the stage. “Pontypool”, the movie, by Bruce McDonald, has a cult-like following with zombie enthusiasts. For this show, Burgess cleverly uses a basement radio station as the focal point and sets it in Illinois. The location is cut off from the outside but still able to receive reports of activity. Under the direction of Anderson Lawfer, the show has an Orson Wells-Vincent Price old-time radio feel. We are listening, intently, with the characters as a reporter describes the doomsday scenario. It’s an audio-astic thrill! Major kudos to Designer Gregor Mortis and his mob sounds that were way too close for comfort.
Lawfer stages it with edgy tension masterfully using the sound booth to show problems on-air and in the booth. In the lead, Jamie Vann (Grant) is perfect for this job. Playing the arrogant has-been, Vann is hysterical. His overlapping conversations with Elizabeth Dowling (Sydney) are Frasier and Roz excellent. Their working relationship is genuine and dysfunctional. Heard but not seen, Michael Dailey (Ken) skillfully conveys a homespun reporter (think Les Nessman) battling terror. The entire ensemble is horrifyingly great!
Along with its big sister, Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom, PONTYPOOL is a must see Halloween treat. Strawdog has got your zombie-fest doubleheader. It’s time to eat someone’s face off!
The only problem I had with this show was the post-show. I had to walk five, long and creepy, blocks to my building. All I’m saying is the next time you want to scare me, Anderson Lawfer, you’re going to escort me home.
Running Time: Sixty Minutes with no intermission
At Hugen Hall, 3829 N. Broadway
Written by Tony Burgess
Directed by Anderson Lawfer
Fridays and Saturdays at 11pm
Sundays at 8pm
HALLOWEEN at 8pm
Thru November 4th
Buy Tickets at www.strawdog.org
Production photograph courtesy of Tim McGrath.