Unlike the millions of Americans who are currently obsessed with all things zombie-oriented, Katherine Brook, the director of the dark zom-com-drama H. apocalyptus, hasn't spent a significant portion of her pop-culture life following the exploits of the living dead. But she did play one in a movie.
"I was involved with I Am Legend, that Will Smith movie," Brook says. "When I was acting, I played a zombie in that."
Since then, she has thought more and more about what the living dead mean to us. "I've become interested in them in the way we use zombies and other monsters to talk about our cultural anxieties," Brook says.
Written by Dean Poyner and performed by New York City's Salvage Company, H. apocalyptus is the story of three people — two women and one man — who cross paths after a zombie apocalypse and, well, start thinking about how they should, you know, get to repopulating the world. Cue the boom-chicka-wah-wah.
"It's sort of a sick Adam and Eve story," Brook says. "The story is about this guy Jed, who was maybe a down-and-out character before the zombie apocalypse and now has been called, maybe by God, maybe by within himself, to be the new Adam essentially, to be the first man of the new world."
According to Brook, the production bares a striking similarity to a religious ceremony, which, when you come to think of it, shouldn't be that much of a shock. After all, we're talking about a creation myth here. "What we are doing is basically making the whole thing into a ritual retelling," she says. "We're trying to make it almost like a religious ceremony. It's like we're doing the stages of the cross or something like that."
Brook adds that even the cast's dialogue is designed to help create the feeling that the audience is watching a play that does not take place in our world. "The kind of language that Dean uses is so poetic and verbose and stylized. It's not realistic at all," Brook says. "What I wanted to do was to find a way that the actors could perform it with the kind of conviction that it needs, and to bring out the really creative thing that he is doing of trying to make this silly zombie-themed stuff into a very serious guess about the future of the world post-zombie apocalypse."
Oddly enough for a play about life in a post-World War Z world, no zombies will ever shuffle across the stage during the production. However, they will have a presence throughout the play. "We made a pretty distinct choice not to try to dress people up in zombie costumes and make them walk across the stage, but the zombies are present," Brook says. "I think the scarier thing is to have them never actually appear on the stage."
Brook and stage designer Brandon McIver have also created a very unique set, one befitting the play's living-dead trappings. She says, "He's building this huge rib cage that embraces the actors. The spine is up stage center and the ribs curve around."
We don't know about you, but Brook, Poyner, and McIver had us at the word "zombie." The rest is just brains on the cake. Mmmm. Braaaaaaains.