Act Normal’s ‘How to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse’ a bit lowbrow at times but still a blast
Whether you’re looking for a few belly laughs or to interact with several zany characters, Act Normal’s “How to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse” is an enjoyable experience even if it’s a little too goofy at times.
For those of you not familiar with the format of this “seminar” presented by the Act Normal theater troupe, Dr. Dale, portrayed by Tim Stoddard, leads the audience in a dinner setting through a series of slides that show you how to survive when the zombies attack.
Stoddard essentially serves as the witty leader who keeps things moving forward.
Judy, portrayed by Pamela Stoddard, is the scientist with a professional exterior with darker interior. She shows off her opposite ends through her dark but funny dialogue and expressions. Donald, portrayed by Dan Mitchell, is the military survivalist not afraid to get close with the audience, perhaps a little too close at times, and Tristan, portrayed by Dyllan Storm, is the show’s inner child who has a few loose screws but also a charming, naive ignorance.
The show’s format, as mentioned above, is set up as a dinner seminar with slides, props, and the host picking random audience members to help participate and get on stage. There’s also a brief question and answer session. The main punch comes from the actors, their costumes and props, however.
They’re also in character from start to finish, which, if not done well can ruin the audience experience real quick.
Luckily, each of this show’s characters are fun, distinctive and believable.
Upon entrance, people are asked to put on name tags, which are used throughout the show, however not for their usual purpose.
And, as with any kind of dinner theater show of this type, the audience participation is the most entertaining part of the evening.
Whenever Dr. Dale would ask someone to stand up from their seat, he would casually tell the person, “I’m not going to do anything to make you embarrassed,” and then proceeds to do his best to embarrass the person, to great comedic effect. I won’t spoil it, but needless to say, if you’re asked to stand up, prepare to have some fun even if you’re completely uncomfortable.
I also found the signs on each of the tables with official miniature posters from some popular Zombie movies or shows also a nice touch. Mainly because if you attend the show, afterward you can tell your family or friends that they you got to sit at the “Walking Dead” table or the “28 Days Later” table or the “World War Z” table. It’s a small detail that goes toward setting the feel of the night, along with the zombie-style cocktails one can enjoy with the meal.
And, for those of you going in to the 3D to take this seriously, I want to introduce you to my cousin, who is a real Saudi prince. He has some money he needs to be deposited into your savings account real quick after you’re finished reading this review. Just like this seminar, it’s totally legitimate. Trust me.
Anyhow, throughout the show, Dr. Dale and his team go through the steps to help you survive when the zombie apocalypse comes. Despite the serious setting, if you don’t laugh at any point in the evening, you must really be trying to have a bad time.
This role of Dr. Dale is a perfect one for Tim, who is quite good at sounding important and intelligent while talking about silly topics. Topics such as why a pirate might not be the best companion when the zombies come vs. the Pope, or how doing several recognizable dance moves may or may not make for great ways to kill a zombie.
Pamela is quite excellent in her portrayal as Judy, and if anything it would have been fun to see more of her throughout the show. She does get to play another surprise character, which she seemingly pulls out of thin air and is just as believable as Judy.
Dan is a good sport and does a good job at playing the survival expert who has, “survived quite a long time.”
Some of the funniest moments of the show came when he would either be trying to flirt, unsuccessfully mind you, with some of the women in the crowd. Dan’s a versatile actor, and has this role down to a tee.
And, finally, Dyllan has always done a nice job at playing the bumbling idiot, which, truthfully, takes just as much talent and intelligence to play the “Pinkie” character vs playing the “Brain.” Dyllan’s character is funny, lovable and innocent. Having that innocence makes the role because as an audience member you can forgive him for coming off too silly. There was one bit of dialogue he has that gets very gruesome toward the end involving his dead mother, but that’s perhaps the only time you’re likely to cringe when Dyllan is speaking.
And while for audiences familiar with these actors it might seem as if they’re a bit on autopilot, on one hand that’s also an indication of how well they’ve done in preparing for this show. Yes, the show does make some easy gags, but the fact that they make them look effortless and still funny goes to show how comfortable they are with the material.
And, with that, I’d say that’s really the only major criticism with this show — it’s not really pushing anyone’s comfort levels except perhaps for some of the audience members. That and when you’re sitting at the bar, there’s a pillar in your way that you have to look around at times, but it isn’t an issue if you’re seated at a table, which is why getting a reservation is so important.
So while it’s a bit of dumb humor, it’s still fun, and I believe that’s the true test of whether this kind of show can be successful or not.
And, with Halloween coming up, it’s a perfect date night, or a night out with your family, as the show is appropriate for young and old alike. There were several toddler aged children at Saturday’s show and they were laughing most of the way through. There are some smart gags in there, too, so don’t take this review as my saying all of the jokes were dumb, because they weren’t.
You can still get reservations by calling 781-9839 or visiting the event’s Facebook page. Also, check out my interview with Dr. Dale here, if you haven’t already. The show runs again on Oct. 24, 25, 30 and 31 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $35 per person, dinner is included.