Sunday, March 8, 2009



Adaptation from Joyce Carol Oates' novella by Bill Connington. Directed by Thomas Caruso. Theater Row Studio. (CLOSED)

Want to spend 75 minutes with a serial killer? Bill Connington's solo show, adapted from Joyce Carol Oates' novella about a Jeffrey Dahmer-like psychopath, delivers on that dubious propsition, and a number of critics find his meticulous efforts as adapter/performer all too convincing; the words "creepy" and "chilling" pop up frequently, and not always as praise. Indeed, even some who admire the show agree with its detractors' main quibble: They wonder whether this graphic voyage into a disturbed mind has anything substantial to offer in return for the discomfort.

Talk Entertainment A
(Oscar E. Moore) Based on the novella by Joyce Carol Oates and skillfully directed by Thomas Caruso, Zombie is a must see for all those interested in acting, the theatre, writing, psychology, directing, music, lighting and those who just enjoy being spooked out. If anything, it is better now then when I first saw it. Connington delivers a magnificently nuanced performance...The writing has a beautiful lyricism and style all its own. There is some very dark humor...You will never be able to look at an ice pick in quite the same way after seeing this show.

The New York Times B+
(Anita Gates) A chilling one-man study of perversity adapted by Mr. Connington from a Joyce Carol Oates novella...The banality of evil isn't a new subject in literature or drama, but fiction rarely reveals this much this clearly. Quentin gives his boy victims nicknames - like Raisin Eyes and Squirrel - and insists he loves them. But his monstrousness quickly shows itself...Mr. Connington commits totally to this haunting characterization and leaves us wondering exactly what kind of people are walking the streets alongside us.

Variety B+
(Sam Thielman) Perfectly counterfeits the experience of sitting in a room with a serial murderer, which is even less comfortable than it sounds. The show's 75 minutes are best spent as far away as possible from the actor, whose ingenious performance gives the skin-crawling piece such an authentic texture that the artificiality of the light and sound changes are a welcome reminder of the outside world. Connington's adaptation is not quite perfect; there are moments in which the descriptions of physical violence are so extreme, they feel a little too stylized. But those moments are the exception, not the rule...The question ultimately becomes whether it's worth it to spend time with somebody as disturbed as Oates' invention -- sexually stunted killer Quentin P -- who dreams of having a "zombie" slave, which he believes he can create by giving a kidnap victim a prefrontal lobotomy with an icepick...The play's merits as a study in evil are debatable, since there's nothing good with which to contrast Quentin. But the character's snakelike, hypnotic quality is not.

Show Business Weekly B+
(Laura Oseland) Presents a haunting portrait of a sexual psychopath in the throes of a disturbing fantasy that consumes his every activity and ultimately destroys him. A chilling portrayal of insanity and the frightening depths of extreme narcissism, Zombie is both painful and poignant as it delves into the dark abyss of taboo subjects, the danger of uncontrolled sexual intensity, loneliness, and the thin line between fantasy and lunacy...Aptly structured, Connington’s narrative lures the audience into a false sense of security followed by a disarmingly calm account of Quentin’s brutal history, punctuated by violent outbursts of raw sexual need. Connington’s strength lies in his ability to balance the necessary clarity of Quentin’s complex narrative with the reality of his own insanity, as well as his deep, abiding belief in the “zombie slave” fantasy that is the foundation for his entire identity.

Backstage B
(Robert Windeler) This world-premiere, hourlong solo piece about a serial killer understandably will have a limited audience, but it's hard to quibble about its - you should excuse the expression - execution. Adapted by actor Bill Connington from Joyce Carol Oates' ripped-from-the-headlines novella, the monologue mines the twisted psyche of a Jeffrey Dahmeresque young man...Connington acts this creature chillingly, and director Thomas Caruso is complicit in creating believability of speech and movement in a limited space, a basement apartment. A life-size doll standing in for many of the victims helps. Connington's deep accent, more Minnesota than the Michigan of the setting, does not. B
(Robert Weinstein) Quentin P., the lone character in Razors Edge Productions' dramatization of the Joyce Carol Oates novella Zombie, is a serial killer. He finds young men, mostly black, and builds a relationship to them from afar, stalking, but never speaking to them...If the actions just described seem horrendous, the appearance of the man perpetrating them is quite the opposite... He comes across as an insecure teenager in a grown man's body. This juxtaposition makes Zombie a compelling endeavor...Bill Connington's Quentin P. comes across as a man-child vying for our understanding but never in need of our sympathies or compassion.

Associated Press C+
(Peter Santilli) Right from the opening scene of "Zombie"...the creepiness is unnerving. And it only gets creepier. The unique, but glaringly one-dimensional, solo play, written and performed by Connington, opened Saturday at off-Broadway's Theatre Row, following a critically acclaimed premier in 2008 at New York's International Fringe Festival...Several factors conspire to make this production considerably more disturbing than so many other horror stories we've seen. Foremost is the unflinching realism and clarity of Connington's eerie portrayal, which is as convincing as it is frightening...It is difficult to imagine an audience this show would be well-suited for, other than perhaps those with a voyeuristic appetite for the ghoulish. The intense exposure to the main character and his apparent and absolute lack of humanity leave very little room to appreciate or analyze this play on any level beyond its literal interpretation. Its resonance is limited to that of a psycho-killer B-movie, despite the impressive depth of Connington's performance.

Offoffonline C
(William Coyle) Despite his clear familiarity with the part...Mr. Connington seems squeamish in his role. In his attempt to strip a persona from Quentin P. and emulate a stereotypical psychopath, a la Anthony Perkins in Psycho, Mr. Connington enunciates words cautiously and self-consciously, sometimes inadvertently channeling Mrs. Doubtfire instead of Norman Bates. Mr. Connington permits himself the occasional outburst - for example, when Quentin P. grades his first four zombie-making attempts as Fs - but, rather than terrifying us these explosions make us grateful for the change of pace...Mr. Connington tries hard; he really does. He should be commended for even approaching this difficult subject. Yet, he never truly immerses himself in the psychopathy of Quentin P., preferring to stand at its edges, testing the waters. Perhaps it's an impossible task. Perhaps Oates has already found, in fiction, the best vehicle for this tale's delivery.

NY Press D
(Mark Peikert) A look at the evil that lurks in supposedly anyone, Zombie (adapted by star Bill Connington from Joyce Carol Oates’s novella) feels dated. Everything about Quentin’s appearance, hair greased down in a side-part, short-sleeved shirt tucked into unflattering khaki pants, his eyes glittering behind enormous glasses, screams child molester. No one is surprised anymore when the quiet, kind of weird guy next door shows up on "To Catch a Predator," but previously convicted child molester Quentin goes about his bloody business unnoticed. And though much was made about the show’s frighteningly realistic glimpse into the mind of a killer during its previous incarnation as part of the 2008 Fringe Festival, Connington’s mannered performance acts as a glass barrier between Quentin and the audience. Penetrating his bizarre speech patterns (attempting what might be a Midwestern accent, he often sounds more like either an Indian cab driver or a robot) is almost impossible, focusing attention on how he’s speaking rather than on what he’s saying. And what he’s saying is shocking, scary and graphic, but nothing in Zombie feels new.

Talk Entertainment A 13; The New York Times B+ 11; Variety B+ 11; Show Business Weekly B+ 11; Backstage B 10; B 10; Associated Press C+ 8; Offoffonline C 7; NY Press D 4; TOTAL = 85/9 = 9.44 (B-)

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