Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe

Zombie Attack!

Aux Dog Theatre Nob Hill
Review by Rob Spiegel

Also see Rob's review of A Doll's House

Poster art by Russell Maynor
I love zombies, from the early 1932 film, White Zombie and Frankenstein (yes, Frankenstein's monster was a zombie) through Jim Jarmusch's recent indie-star-filled The Dead Don't Die. The flesh-eating concept didn't fully take shape until George Romero's 1968 Night of the Living Dead—that's when we got the zombies we know and love, those who burst up from their graves to eat anything that moves. That's when we get the nasty rule that, once bitten by a zombie, you become a zombie.

Over the decades, zombie movies have grown to surprising proportions, even including a film in which Abe Lincoln becomes a zombie killer. Zombie movies now number in the hundreds, and that doesn't even count the two "Walking Dead" television series. Zombies also have a long history in comedy and semi-comedy. Tongue-in-cheek films such as Edgar Wright's Shaun of the Dead and Ruben Fleischer's Zombieland have become classics. So it was a quite a treat to find out the Aux Dog had dug up a little gem of a zombie story, Zombie Attack! by Justin Tanner and Andy Daley.

The play ran for 10 years at the Cast Theatre in Hollywood after premiering in 1989, and Art Tedesco, director of the Aux Dog production, originally saw the play there. With few productions since, Tedesco seems to have plucked it out of near obscurity. And what a lovely funny play he's raised from the dead to the Aux Dog stage.

The story blends a number of horror clichés, from the friends-in-a-cabin-for-the-weekend setup from The Evil Dead through nearly every zombie motif, including a high school band. Aux Dog jumps in on the parody act by creating a horror movie style poster showing a zombie carrying a terrified pretty girl. It's classic movie poster kitsch from the 1950s—like a zombie would carry a girl.

The gist of the story is that a family member has died, so a nephew and his sometimes girlfriend move into the house for the weekend to clear things out. They invite two other couples to join them in the small home in a somewhat desolate rural area. It is quickly revealed that some local people and passers-through have gone missing. Rumor has it the guy across the road has been snatching people and burying them behind his house, and neighbors have been complaining of an odd stench in the area.

As the three couples arrive at the house, they squabble and complain about their spouses/boyfriends/girlfriends. They're all a big unhappy mess. The three guys are old friends. Speed (C.R. Adams) and Buda (Michael Weppler) decide to take acid. Their bizarre trip becomes the focus of continual rounds of laughs. Speed's girlfriend Crystal (Amber Rose Pohl) has brought along a book on the occult. She decides to perform a back-from-the-dead spell to revive a cat one of the guests ran over on the way to the house. The cat comes back to life, and inadvertently, so do all of the dead people buried across the way.

Madness breaks out as the zombies try to enter the house. Some of them make it into into the cellar (these abandoned houses/cabins always have dangerous cellars), and a couple of kids from the local high school band take refuge in the house, joining the six others at the height of the attack. Lovely stuff!

The cast Tedesco has gathered do a wonderful job of keeping the humor high, and they make sure it builds and builds. Having two guys on acid is a terrific twist, and Tedesco and his cast make the most of it. This is very much an ensemble effort, so it's hard to identify stand-out actors. They all do terrific work with the part-slapstick, part-romcom, and part-horror piece. Special kudus to Dan K. Tabeling for his wonderfully useful set, with its numerous doors and a loft that comes in handy at the end of the story.

This is a funny play, well-executed by all involved. It's great fun for the month of October. Many thanks to Tedesco for dusting off this gem and presenting it to Albuquerque audiences.

Zombie Attack! runs through November 3, 3019, at Aux Dog Theatre Nob Hill, 3011 Monte Vista Blvd. NE, Albuquerque NM. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m., and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. General admission tickets are $25. Admission for ATG members, seniors, and service members is $23, under 30 is $15, and student admission is $12. For tickets and information, visit or call 596-0607.