“When there’s no more room in hell, ” portends one of the few remaining human survivors in George A. Romero’s 1978 masterpiece “Dawn of the Dead, ” “the dead shall walk the earth.” Until that time, I can report that presently the dead are “alive” and well and stalking the corridors of the Menomonee Club for Boys and Girls in Lincoln Park in an effort to make spectators bust a gut…laughing, that is.
“Multi-Purpose Doom,” a “zombie-comedy” with a lot of heart (and a lot of fake blood) is the latest from site-specific Sandbox Theatre and it is easily their most creative, ambitious and palpably fun project to date. It’s been a little over two years since the group’s 2006 comedy of sweaty manners, “Can You Spot Me?” took up residence in a Lakeview fitness club, culminating in a gloriously campy dramatic “run off” between two rival joggers to the thumping-good sound of indie-rock band Arcade Fire’s “Rebellion (Lies).” This time, the cast have traded in their treadmills for Tang-filled water guns, the battle between humans and zombies occupies the full scope of Menomonee’s cavernous gymnasium and the writing—the show is developed through a combination of ensemble-based playwriting and improvisation under the watchful eye of Sandbox Artistic Director Justin D.M. Palmer—is tighter, funnier and smarter than ever. And more memorable since long after this sixty-minute comedy had ended, my companion and I continued to revel in some post-show (post-apocalyptic?) chit chat. Was Sandbox making a critique on American consumerism a la “Dawn of the Dead” by implicating Starbucks coffee as a possible cause of the infestation? Was the crazy janitor’s meanderings about Scandinavian armies and 1950s failed space missions an indictment of the military and scientific communities a la 1985’s “Day of the Dead”? And wouldn’t it have been great if the Zombie Ballerina—yes, in a tutu—had led the cast in a curtain-call encore performance of the Michael Jackson “Thriller” dance? As a “serious” theater critic I too was surprised by that last one. Oh well, chalk it up to the cast’s infectious performance energy and the show’s brilliant and bloody ability to unearth so much animation from such “dead” subject matter. (Fabrizio O. Almeida)
At the Drucker Center, Menomonee Club for Boys and Girls, 1535 N. Dayton, (773)456-2329. Fri-Sat 9pm, $15. Through Aug 23.