Arts, Featured

The Drama of the Undead: Zombie Shakespeare at Chinook’s

by Justine Pechuzal for Seward City News-
The Zombie Shakespeare cast, in character. L to R: Rachel Banse, Chad Bonnet, Jim Doepken, Christy Everett Jordan, Sailor Terry, Lydia Jacoby, David Paperman. Photo: Justine Pechuzal

Two unusual nights of fright, Elizabethan theatrics and culinary delight recently overtook Chinook’s restaurant at the Zombie Shakespeare Dinner Theater event.  

This tradition of spook-themed drama was first started by Port City Players five years ago when they performed Edgar Allen Poe readings at the Seward Hotel over Halloween.  The event was so well received that they expanded it into a night of dinner theater at Chinooks the year after, and have continued ever since.

This year, however, was the first time that Port City players invoked ‘The Bard’, living or undead.  For the event, a cast of six actors chose readings from various Shakespeare plays, modified the text to reflect the ghoulish theme, and dressed as a zombie version of that character for the performance.  Well recognized figures included King Richard II, (cleverly dressed as a zombie version of the current U.S. President), Hamlet, and the star-crossed lover Juliet (clumping along on a broken high heel.)  Other lesser-known Shakespearean characters made dramatic showings such as Tamora from Titus Andronicus, Jacques from As You Like It and Pyramus from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  Of course, what kind of Halloween would it be without a witch, two in fact, who tossed various bones and animal parts into the cauldron while concocting a spell from The Scottish Play.         

It was a night not to be forgotten.  Upon arrival, dinner guests were escorted up dark stairs to the restaurant’s second floor.  Dining tables draped with black fabric were arranged around a light-emitting cauldron. A sinister soundtrack of drumming and creaking noises playing in the background created a creepy ambiance in what is usually a warm and casual space.

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Centerpiece created by AVTEC students. Photo: Justine Pechuzal.

Awaiting everyone on their plates was a large spoon with an ambiguous slimy organ swimming in red sauce, the clever ‘Bloody Mary Oyster’ first course. It was as delicious as it appeared dubious.  Chef Erik Slater spared no stomachs in coming up with his creative menu, which he dubbed ‘uncomfortable comfort food.’  Additional courses included ‘Bone Marrow’: a roasted beef bone with marrow, toasts and onion jam, cleverly served on a white rectangular dish smeared with a red handprint of beet juice.  The main course, ‘Squid Ink Pasta Carbonara,’ included blood sausage.  Overall, it was an ambitious culinary spread that even zombies would approve of (were they interested in non-decayed flesh types of food). Only one thing about the night was sweet: the panna cotta dessert, served with a bright red raspberry sauce.  Guests also had the option of pairing their food with a menu of hand-selected drinks to top off the finery.

At the event’s commencement, producer and host David Paperman introduced the cast of zombies.  The actors stumbled into the dining area, setting everyone’s stomachs churning as they moaned, groaned, and swayed in a circle around the room before disappearing ‘backstage’ (the bar/sushi area partitioned with drapes).  One by one, the zombies performed, lamenting the collapse of civilization, murder, power, suicide, and lust.

Shakespeare was not a light-hearted fellow, and this particular culling from his work showcased how intuitively he grasped the darker sides of humanity. Fortunately, the actors did a stupendous job of exaggerating the grotesque and horror, so that laughter was a frequent occurrence.  Even the make-up, by talented baker Monica Chase, had a creative, culinary, and dramatic element to it.  Boils on the witches’ bare feet were made with toasted marshmallows attached with red-dyed corn syrup. Chase learned this trick from a former fire firefighter who had to make stimulated burns for drills.

Once again, Seward proved that it doesn’t take big money or populations to put on a good show.  All we need is a place and time to showcase the broad talents of our community.  Stay tuned for future Port City Players productions ‘Church and State,’ a thought provoking political comedy November 10-11th, and ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,’ a community musical in the spring of 2018.

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