I went to Hollywood last night to find out how to survive a zombie apocalypse. And what better place to learn how to out maneuver a horde of mindless, virus-carrying psychos who only see you as a meal ticket, well, just a meal. Improvatorium is currently staging the American version of How to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse at Theatre Asylum and it’s surprisingly educational. Although the show has a basic premise, the performance is improvised relying on audience participation.
As a paranoid who believes that a zombie apocalypse is nigh and probably well deserved, I’ve made a close study of every zombie film George A. Romero has made (Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Land of the Dead) as well as Zombieland, 28 Days Later… and on and on.
I think my reaction would be closer to the characters in Shaun of Dead, ditching a well thought out asylum for a bar.
After last night’s show, I felt comforted that others are thinking about, and quietly preparing for, the looming zombie herd. I didn’t feel so freakish when the audience asked the panel questions that seemed to be based in real concern.
Guy in Members Only Windbreaker: What do you do when the spinal cord regenerates after you severe it with an axe?
Clinical Specialist Dr. Bobart Dougash (Patrick Bristow): You must use your axe to aim for the brain. The spinal cord will simply regenerate until you get tired or are bitten.
Simple yet life saving.
Certainly, there could be surprises (like zombies can drive cars or can leap long distances) but the point of the show seems to be that some old standards hold true. Knowing where to make your stand, choosing the best weapon, and maintaining your calm are the building blocks of avoiding becoming the buffet. It also helps to be right-handed. You have to see the show to learn why that is very important.
Survival also might be trickier if you live in Hollywood. As Dr. Dougash suggests, it’s harder to sort the residents from the attacking zombies. His suggestion: Best find a hiding place and wait for the biters to head off for Eagle Rock, allowing time for them to get through the Barham Pass.
This is another thing about How to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse that is quite helpful. The survival tips are geographically specific. Some of the hideouts may be harder to find, though.
Not everyone can hold up in a castle with a shark-filled moat, drawbridge and high wall reinforced with archers and fire arrows.
I did scratch down a note that I should check out how easy it would be to break into Cher’s house. She lives nearby in a fortress (castle), has the Pacific Ocean on one side (moat) and a sea of snarky, barb-throwing entourage (sharks, fire arrows).
Bristow (also the show’s director) leads his superb cast in an irreverent night of picking off the unaware and dense. The cast features Mario Vernazza as Ronald Jarfist, a get some, diehard, ready-to-repopulate-the-earth military expert, Jayne Entwistle as Dr. Kirsta Kanbert, a no-nonsense scientist who seems to spend much of her time testing her zombie-thwarting theories on live people, and Chris Sheets as touched-by-angels Braydon Manxpipe, Dougash’s nephew and the unfortunate subject of Kanbert’s experiments, hence, the free association.
This delightful cast does an excellent job of interacting with the audience; educating them and rooting for their survival, well, sort of. Dr. Dougash seems to get a perverse thrill out of telling an audience member that they are, in fact, dead. At one point, I asked a question about Twinkies and got this answer, “That’s a dumb question. Take off your nametag. You’re dead.” I was trying to be topical. Turns out, that will get you killed.
Show highlights: Entwistle demonstrates what you should do if you are in high school during an attack. Hint… sometimes weapons at school aren’t so bad. Sheets’ explanation of how to kill your mom if she turns is so random and hilarious I had stomach cramps.
The original UK version of How to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse has been a long-running favorite. It won Best International Show at the 2011 Hollywood Fringe Festival. And there’s a real book, Dr. Dale’s Zombie Dictionary The A-Z Guide to Staying Alive, written by the show’s creator.
Bristow, Entwistle and Sheets are no strangers to the undead genre having lead a larger cast in Zombience, a long-running, wildly popular improvised zombie musical.
How to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse is a great way to spend the season and a wonderful place to take visiting relatives and friends to show just what whacky ole Hollywood is all about.
The show, co-produced with Combined Artform, will run through December at Theater Asylum in Hollywood.
Tickets and information:
6320 Santa Monica Blvd. Hollywood, CA 90038