I had no idea what to expect when I was walking into the Boardmore Theatre on Tuesday night, March 23rd, to see Zombies vs. Robots during the Elizabeth Boardmore One Act Play Festival. The scene was set right away as you walked in. From the scary music, gravestones, and warning in the program to expect fog effects and strobe lights, I knew I was in for a treat.
When I walked in, I loved that the atmosphere was established right from the top. It really gave you the sense that anything could happen. The play was written by Kristen Woodford and directed by a newcomer to the festival, Scott Sharplin. The story follows several charming and articulate zombies who try to re-enter society but soon find out that they are not welcome by everyone they meet. The zombies shack up in a local tavern run by a young couple who were actually responsible for waking them from the dead. When the local scientists become aware of their arrival, they develop a robot who is not only capable of destroying them, but also has a malfunction which causes it to fall in love with one of the zombies as well. The story was a very charming spoof of the old horror movies you grew up on. If you take it seriously then you’ve lost the point.
When the lights came up on the first scene, in a graveyard, the fog machine was already in full effect. In fact, maybe even a little too much. The lower section of the theatre was completely covered in fog right off the bat. It didn’t take long before you could hear many people in the crowd coughing. It even got so bad that you couldn’t even see the actor on stage at the time. Although the fog really set the opening mood of the play, it did get a little distracting. As the fog cleared, the play moved forward. We were introduced to many wonderful and hilarious characters. This cast was actually very large for a one act play. We saw some very entertaining performances in this show. Some that really stood out were Daryl Babstock as the tavern owner and Allison Haley as his fiancee. These two worked really well together. Babstock and Haley were the glue that held the story together. If they were off or slowed down, then the whole show would be at risk. They really kept the energy where it needed to be and were hilarious at the same time. There were also some very funny performances from James F.W. Thompson and Erin Gillis as the mad scientists. Thompson and Gillis delivered their characters just as an “old school” mad scientist would. They were over the top and clear as a bell. You didn’t miss a line from their mouths. Thompson’s character really reminded me of Doc Brown from Back to the Future. Very nice job! There was also a wonderful performance from Danna Martin as the robot. You could tell that Martin committed 100% to this character. She refused to wink at the audience and played it as serious as possible. There could have been a lot of room for error with this roll but Martin nailed it. I would also like to mention Anna Spencer as the scientist’s daughter. Spencer was extremely funny playing a young girl who had no idea what was going on at any time. With her random outbursts and constant smile, she was a delight to watch.
Kristen Woodford wrote a very entertaining and funny script. It never took itself too seriously and was very clever a times. The only downfall to this show was its length. I found it ran a little long. I think it was over an hour where most one acts tend to fall in the 30 to 40 minute range. With the content, I felt that the story could have been told in a much shorter script. Some of the scenes with the zombies tended to run longer than they should and would wear thin after a while. If Woodford were to work on this script again, it would be better-paced and more effective if she trimmed 20 minutes or so off of it.
Scott Sharplin did a very wonderful job directing this large cast. He moved his actors on stage very well and used the space as much as possible. Especially in the opening of the play, the mood was set for a very fun evening of theatre. There did happen to be a few technical problems through this show. One of the mistakes that Sharplin might have made was going too much towards the special effects. When someone is putting on a play in a one act festival like this, there is very little time available to work on this aspect. When you only get one dress rehearsal in the space and one show the next night, you really have to hope for the best for these problems to work themselves out quickly. I think if this cast and crew had a few nights with the stage, lights and sound, they could have really nailed it. But the cast handled the problems with grace and never let it slow them down.
The cast and crew of Zombies vs. Robots did a wonderful job with this show. Congratulations to the cast and crew for a very entertaining night in the theatre!