Zombies, families, light and magic11/12/2014
For the people who put together “Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom,” the show must feel like going home. For those who watch it, home may never feel the same.
“Neighborhood 3” at StageWest brings together the same crew that mounted the show a couple of years ago for the Social Club. For that production, director Zachary Mannheimer worked in his club’s temporary lodgings on Fourth Street. He had help from two seasoned actors — James Serpento and Alissa Tschetter-Siedschlaw — playing an assortment of anxious parents. Now they’ve got a better venue, and Mannheimer has also coaxed back Nick Cornelison, who handles the “Son Type,” four troubled adolescents. The lone newcomer is Glori Dei Filippone, a teenager in multiple roles as the “daughter-type.”
To squeeze so many different people into a single foursome might seem strange, but, in this play, it goes with the territory. Theatergoers enter a gated community. Jay Jagim’s smart reconfiguration of the theater is all candy colors with a glistening pool and a manicured lawn. As the drama unfolds, though, they reveal a gray sickness of soul.
Families are breaking down. Every “son type” and “daughter type” sits glued to the same multi-player game. The game’s goal seems ordinary: kill zombies and escape their domain. That domain, however, grows eerie; its “final level” takes a player to his or her own house. As for the zombies within, who are they?
Jennifer Haley’s script doesn’t answer the question, exactly — the stage blacks out at key moments — but the game is only a symptom, not the disease. “Neighborhood 3” frames a timeless struggle — adolescents against parents — in a cutting-edge way.
As the parents, Serpento and Tschetter-Siedschlaw both find different sore points for each of their four roles. One “mother type” falls into a dead-eyed stare over another bottle of wine. One father, speaking with a neighbor he hardly knows, erupts with need, pawing at the air. These two performers have been away from theater for a few years, and it’s been a loss. They remain flexible as ever.
But these walking dead include the young. Cornelison starts most scenes by holding back, then rallies, outdoing whoever has taunted him. In most cases that foil is Filippone, and she holds her own. Now seductive, now nerdy, now menacing, she’s the discovery of the night.
The greatest performance, though, could be that of the tech crew. Chris Williams and Josh Jepson work with flat-screens at either end of the stage, playing hard-edged game-scapes while sirens and voiceovers rip away any notion of suburban bliss. Des Moines does Industrial Light and Magic.
Overheard in the Lobby: This weekend, the Civic Center hosts the national tour of “Joseph & the Technicolor Dream Coat.” CV
John Domini is a published local author who has lived on both coasts and abroad and enjoyed theater everywhere. See www.johndomini.com.