Open up any horror auteur’s toolbox, and you’ll likely see some recurring devices: tracking shots, audience immersion, startles, simmering dread—elements that are notably difficult to achieve onstage. So Wildclaw Theatre’s mission of bringing the world of horror to the theater is an ambitious one, and one I’ve seen yield truly creative results from this innovative company. Couple that challenge, though, with the addition of another stage-averse genre—spaghetti westerns—and the outcome is a little more strained.
In a ghost-town saloon patronized mostly by shady bounty hunters, a doctor (Krista D’Agostino) treats the deliriously fevered victims of mysterious animal bites. Loyalties start cracking once it becomes clear that a zombie apocalypse is brewing outside, and an already-tense standoff of gunslingers escalates into claustrophobic mayhem.
Playwright Bill Daniel takes it all more seriously than you’d think, largely skipping over the expected camp humor and irony in favor of a pretty compelling thriller narrative. Despite a large and richly drawn cast of characters, however, Josh Zagoren’s production never really quite makes good on its salacious and teasing preshow announcement, which promises “intense blood and gore effects” and hints at a more raucous experience than the mild blood squirts and conventional stage combat choreography that are delivered.
Nevertheless, Nora King’s Shelby earns big laughs as a blind and disinterested bystander, and Ardarius Blakely makes one hell of an entrance as a lurking fugitive hunter. v