According to Lincoln Center's new LCT3 project at its slogan, it takes "New Audiences for New Artists." It also takes new critics, hence the establishment of Theater Talk's New Theater Corps in 2005, a way for up-and-coming theater writers and eager new theatergoers to get exposure to the ever-growing theater scene in New York City. Writers for the New Theater Corps are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the off-off and off-Broadway theater scene, learning and giving back high-quality reviews at the same time. Driven by a passion and love of the arts, the New Theater Corps aims to identify, support, and grow the arts community, one show and one person at a time.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009


Photo/Dixie Sheridan
Evil lurks in unlikely places in Bill Connington's one-man show adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates' novella.
Reviewed by Ilana Novick

In Zombie, Bill Connington’s adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates’s novella, Connington plays Quentin P., a man whose large, thick glasses, receding hairline, and monotone voice are almost aggressively bland, making his appearance in sharp contrast to his horrifying hobbies, which include attempting to give drifters frontal lobotomies, which he hopes will turn them into sex slaves (a zombie). Evil, in other words, lurks in the least likely places, amongst even those who have all the advantages in the world, and may appear as boring on the surface as it is violent underneath. We’ve learned as much from Hannah Arendt and Law and Order: SVU: everyone has learned to fear the loner at the back of the class.

Zombie is no action-packed television show, however. The play comes across like a prison interview; Quentin simply describes his crimes, without any kind of order. Quentin P., newly released from jail, sits in his basement apartment playing chess with himself, describing in exact detail, and chronological order, his extensive rapes and murders, with only brief flashes of insight into why. The robotically slow movements and flat affectation of early scenes are scarier and more compelling (and more realistic) than later scenes in which he’s angrily reenacting his crimes. His arm takes a full minute to move a piece on the chess board, as if he’s performing brain surgery rather than moving a pawn. His motives aren’t so complex: there was a particularly attractive boy in sixth grade who ignored him, he uncomfortably showered with his peers in high school, his father found a stash of his gay porn. Is this what turns people into a serial killers? And makes them obsessed with creating zombie sex slaves by giving drifters frontal lobotomies (none of which work)?

Connington plays against what he perceives as the our need for closure: Zombie doesn’t provide insight into why this particular killer committed his crimes, why the criminal justice system would let someone like him go after only two years in jail, and only prosecuted for one of his many crimes (his father knew the judge at Quentin’s trial), and how he could show so little remorse. However, while Connington is initially committed to Quentin’s personality, when he starts describing his crimes, as graphic and disturbing as they are (you may not be able to look at ice picks, vans, or mannequins the same way again) it seems like shock for shock’s sake. Shouting and eye-popping rage are expected for criminals, and the music that accompanies the reenactments resembles that of a low-budget horror movie. The lighting is similarly distracting, sudden bursts of spotlights highlight the most violent moments, instead of allowing the violence to speak for itself. Connington puts a lot of effort into capturing the nature of this man, but unfortunately succeeds at displaying Quentin’s actions, not explaining them.

Zombie (70 minutes; no intermission)
Theater Row (410 West 32nd Street)
Tickets available at, or at the box office
Performances run February 18-March 29 Thursday-Saturday at 8pm, and Saturday and Sunday at 3pm.

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