SEEING RED Gibel and Battle. [Photo by Mark Turek]
Social Creatures, by Jackie Sibblies Drury, is getting a valiant effort to bring it to life, thanks to a talented cast and brave-hearted direction by Curt Columbus. But, as with the zombie menace it depicts, that would be quite a tall order. The dramedy is shambling along in the downstairs theater through April 21.
It's the near-future and we are in a post-apocalyptic world of fear and suspicion. Well, not an opened-up world so much as a confined microcosm, with seven people hiding from the brain-slurping former fellow human beings shuffling through the streets outside.
Fortunately, the play doesn't take itself overly seriously. Seriously enough, though, in being a cautionary tale: in a striking metaphor, the suggestion is made that mankind has grown so selfish and so used to getting whatever it wants that the natural next evolutionary step is for us to start mindlessly devouring one another. Brilliant. But the lone group member that succumbs to undead temptation — don't worry, I won't say who — does so in a gradual, entertaining fashion. This tale develops into the natural, organic outcome of such a premise: one extended scene of gory, horror-story bloodbathing. To that extent, it's bloody good fun. Squeamish? Be advised.
A tone of something being slightly off is immediately set. We meet two people who obviously know each other closely, since he is ranting furiously and she is patiently understanding. But they are addressing each other formally, as Mr. Jones (Alexander Platt) and Mrs. Jones (D'Arcy Dersham). They are the only intact couple. Mrs. Smith (Rebecca Gibel) is frantic that her husband (Charlie Thurston) is missing, outside and subject to who knows what fate.
It's an innocuous bunch in the hidey hole with its cache of canned goods and Plexiglas isolation booth, in case any of them start turning. Mr. Johnson (Timothy Crowe) is a vaguely drawn resident curmudgeon, a Rotarian competitive throughout his school years, who yearns for the idyllic normalcy of 10 years ago. Mrs. Wilson (Janice Duclos) used to spend her time painting ceramic cats; she is from Walla Walla, Washington, a place "more fun to say than live in." She is the most optimistic one here since, despite all that has happened, it occurs to her that we evolved to like people, and not in the sense that one likes a good steak.
Mrs. Williams (Nance Williamson) presents both a healthy will to survive and a threat to communal survival: she has a habit of taking more of their stock of food than she is entitled to. Despite the social and psychological pressures, she has kept a sense of humor. "You've gotten funnier," Mr. Jones tells her one point. To which she replies: "There's just less to compare it to." It doesn't hurt that she has read all the books in the Twilight vampire series, though that doesn't mean she's picked up any tricks to help them.
Mrs. Jones, that patient listener we first meet, is the voice of reason and the self-appointed arbiter of order. "What's so hard about following a few rules to save mankind?" she asks.