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BWW Reviews: Post5 Is the Right Place to Spend THE LAST DAYS

I have been dimly aware over the past decade or so that a large body of literature had been amassing on the subject of zombies. For a number of reasons, I have not immersed myself in any of that output, so I was not really aware of the correct rules of behavior during a zombie invasion, nor was I completely up on the way in which one becomes a zombie. Now I am, and I feel smarter for it.

The Last Days is a very simple story, really. Four people are holed up in a cabin in the woods trying to survive. Valentine and Larina are brother and sister; Valentine has brought his lover, Miguel, while Larina has brought Shep, who seems to be a one-night stand who got stuck in her life when the zombies arrived. Each handles the crisis in a different way: Val is a hunter-gatherer, Miguel tries to preserve all the knowledge in his many books, Larina thinks about getting pregnant, and Shep just wants to kill as many of the undead as he can. We spend a few days in their company, as they fight over supplies, try to salvage their romantic relationships, and deal with the fact that one of them has been bitten.

Carlos Cisco's play is vivid and intense, and director Rusty Tennant keeps the action moving from the very outset. Tennant also designed the set, which is absolutely brilliant, a patched-together framework of wooden boards that feels like the kind of rotting old cabin you find in horror movies. The lighting and sound are appropriately ominous, and the set extends to within inches of the front row, so you're enveloped in the action from the very start. The four actors are alert and anxious from the moment we meet them, and they remain so throughout, even as the play takes darker turns and some horrible things happen. There are some dark laughs along the way, and some gross-out moments, but the action feels realistic, as if these four people were being besieged on all sides, and the stress was taking a toll on each of them in a different way. There are a few slow passages, where we learn about the characters' past lives, that are a bit bland and formulaic, but the cast gets us past them as painlessly as possible, and eventually the action resumes. This is not a show that anyone will fall asleep in.

All four actors are tremendous. Orion Bradshaw, as Shep, seems to be a caricature of a hedonistic young man who's enjoying the act of killing and stops only long enough to get laid, and he's very funny when Shep seems unable to stop doing push-ups and sit-ups, but eventually the harsh realities get to him, and he has to show a more vulnerable side. Chip Sherman, as Miguel, is the least action-oriented of the four, and mostly seems there to make comments on the others, but at the end he has a monologue about how Miguel met Val that was absolutely stunning - and beautifully delivered - which leads us into the last section of the play. As Larina, Cassandra Boice is stuck with most of the play's slower moments, which she delivers as intelligently as she can, but she's best when she can be a warrior; I loved watching her move stealthily through the cabin, trying to save herself.

The most outstanding performance is that of Ernie Lijoi as Valentine. He's a big bear of a man, and he has a lot of physical action to accomplish in the course of the play, but his more tender moments are his best, and he can be devastatingly funny. It's unusual to see a gay man at the center of an action-oriented story, and Lijoi's Val is no less ferocious for being fabulous at times.

I'm not sure how much I learned about zombie lore from The Last Days, but it's an impressive piece of work that will definitely add to your knowledge of fine theater. Just remember to bring a friend who won't mind if you grab on to them in the dark. Trust me.

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From This Author - Patrick Brassell

Patrick Brassell is the author of five published novels and five produced plays. He has directed, produced, and designed sound for about fifty theater productions, (read more...)