Thursday, October 22, 2009
Rider McDowell grew up watching his mother rehearse off-Broadway plays from the wings of various New York theaters – and was bored to death by most of what he saw.
“I hate off-Broadway shows. Theater can be so boring sometimes,” McDowell says. “And there’s nothing worse than an original Broadway show tune.”
Yes, McDowell developed some monster-sized resentments while lurking about in the shadows all those years. A seed was planted. He was determined to create a theatrical experience that was the absolute opposite of boring. That grim little seed sprouted and grew and decades later blossomed into a cackling, carnivorous riot of a play – Zombie Voodoo Scream Party, which runs Oct. 27 through Halloween at the Golden State Theatre.
A campy horror-comedy about curses, monster hunting and thwarted love that rocks out to a classic R&B soundtrack, Zombie Voodoo Scream Party boasts star power, Hollywood-quality special effects and a leading lady who has been described as having “more soul than any other white woman in the country.”
It’s been variously described as “Mad Magazine meets John Waters,” “An Ed Woodian cross between Rocky Horror and the Marx Brothers,” and “Scooby-Doo on acid.” But perhaps the show’s star Charlie Shaughnessy describes it best: “It’s like English pantomime during Halloween week at Universal Studios as envisioned by Salvador Dali.”
McDowell first approached Shaughnessy (The Nanny, Mad Men) for the part of Cosgrove the Monster Hunter 15 years ago. “I’d hear from him now and again over the years and he’d try to convince me to do it again,” Shaughnessy says. “He finally wore me down.”
“My first choice was Charlie. He has that same English glibness and sophistication as David Niven. Niven was my absolute favorite actor as a child,” McDowell says. “It’s a special type.” Of course sophistication comes easily to Shaugnessy. He is actually a British noble. The actor became the fifth Baron Shaughnessy of Montreal and Ashford in December 2007 after his cousin passed away.
Yet, the real stars of the show may be the monsters themselves. No expense was spared. The costumes were painstakingly designed by Gabe Bartalos, whose résumé includes special effects work on horror movies such as Leprechaun, Friday the 13th and the still-classic Frankenhooker.
With all this, who needs story, right? Yet MacDowell has also managed to squeeze in a bit of narrative. Here’s the basic gist: Cosgrove collects monsters. He must capture one more monster to win the monster pageant and in the process hopefully win the heart of Dr. Dierdre, played by the queen of white soul, Michelle Duffy. And of course there’s the curse, a riot, a worthless lab assistant and a tap-dancing finale that would have made Busby Berkeley proud.
It may sound absurd, but it’s also been described as very, very scary. This is one of those plays in which you can’t be entirely certain the person sitting next to you is actually an audience member. McDowell has warned that the play is not for children under 8 “unless they are very brave.”
So what’s next? Ironically, that same kid who lurked about in the wings and cultivated a deep-seated hatred for New York theater will be taking Zombie Voodoo Scream Party… where else? Off-Broadway. He’s in talks to unleash his monsters upon the Union Square Theater in late 2010. Sweet revenge.
ZOMBIE VOODOO SCREAM PARTY shows 8pm Tuesday-Friday (Oct. 27-30) and 2pm, 10pm Saturday (Oct. 31) at The Golden State Theater, 417 Alvarado St., Monterey. $29.95 adults, $15 children 14 and under. 372-4555.