Bill Connington, adapted from the novella by Joyce Carol Oates
Theatre Row Complex, New York City
If one stretches - and by that I mean really, really stretches (like, advanced-yoga-class stretching) - the meaning one can take away from Bill Connington's adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates' Zombie is that a sexual predator or serial killer is always going to present a danger to society, he will always kill, and so he should never be forgiven or allowed to roam the streets free.
Quentin P_, who Connington also plays, begins his tale by describing an attempt he made at picking up a black boy from the projects. He walks us through his history and other exploits, and describes how he wants a submissive "zombie" to fulfill his emotional and sexual needs. Ultimately, he kills a boy whom people notice is missing, and Quentin P_ goes to prison.
This story could be compelling, were Connington's performance and Thomas Caruso's direction not so timid. If you want to provoke an emotional reaction to the rape of a boy, you can't just situate a mannequin against your pelvis and expect us to cringe - not only because we as a society are desensitized to this sort of portrayal, but because we have seen two actors, two humans, act this out before. Budgets may constrict the number of performers you have on stage, but if you want us to believe a sack of cotton and linen is a person, treat it like a person.
As it stands, Zombie is not raw enough to bring an audience new understanding of what compels a person to kill or what makes them unable to stop, nor does it open new possibilities into how such a killer could be understood and stopped (short of, as previously noted, slamming him in jail at the first sign of a disturbed mind).
Reviewer: Rachel Lynn Brody