Theatre review: The Zombie Syndrome attempts to satisfy our endless craving for the undead

Just like a zombie’s endless craving for brains, North America’s seemingly endless fascination with zombies moves out of the environs of Atlanta to the streets of Vancouver as The Virtual Stage presents The Zombie Syndrome, a site-specific and immersive theatrical experience.

Receiving your orders by phone, you are instructed to rendezvous at a specific location the next day for your mission. Joining your fellow group of “scientists” at the appointed time, you embark on a trek through downtown Vancouver to find a cure to a zombie outbreak that has the potential to wipe out the human race.

With liberal use of Smartphone technology that includes QR codes, online photos and even mood music to accompany you on your seemingly impossible mission, the audience moves from location to location based on gathered clues.

Writer and director Andy Thompson effectively puts us on edge early into the show, as we quickly found ourselves constantly looking over our shoulders for the next zombie interaction. While the actors placed at strategic locations along the route to provide us with our next clue take their roles seriously, they are rarely without a sense of humour although at times the scripted portions of our encounters come across as less than real.

Most compelling, but coming rather late into the experience, Thompson forces his audience to make a couple of key decisions that become interesting exercises in group dynamics. I found myself wondering how the show would have resolved if we had made different choices and if our Canadian reputation as a compassionate society had an impact on those decisions.  Along with an opportunity for additional zombie encounters to up the level of creepiness, raising the stakes in the decisions the audience has to make, early and often, would provide for a more interesting experience.

The Virtual Stage's interactive The Zombie Syndrome continues through October 31.  Photo by Dean Buscher.
The Virtual Stage’s interactive The Zombie Syndrome continues through October 31. Photo by Dean Buscher.

What could be described as The Amazing Zombie Race, the prize at the end of The Zombie Syndrome isn’t a million dollars, but the supposed satisfaction in knowing that you (hopefully) saved mankind.  While no doubt zombie enthusiasts will get a kick out of the adventure, it would be far more rewarding if there was something a little more cerebral to go along with all the brains.

 

3 Out of 5 Stars The Zombie Syndrome

Written and directed by Andy Thompson. A Virtual Stage production. On the streets of Vancouver through October 31, 2012. Visit http://www.thevirtualstage.org for tickets and information.

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