Evil Dead! The Musical and Terrorslide | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Evil Dead! The Musical and Terrorslide

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Evil Dead! The Musical, RowHouse Theater, and Terrorslide, Mr. Fancypants, at the Playground Theater. When the performance space is a tree-shaded backyard, what more appropriate Halloween fare than a lost-in-the-woods chiller--in this case based on Sam Raimi's 1983 film The Evil Dead? Such apparent incongruities as the roar of the el, the wail of sirens, and the barking of dogs only add to the eerie atmosphere. The plot is your standard teens-in-danger formula, the setting a remote cabin formerly occupied by an archaeologist who's left behind the Sumerian Book of the Dead. When one of the skeptical campers foolishly recites a resurrective incantation, the ensuing attack by angry demons leaves the young folk no option but to--well, kill or be killed.

This RowHouse Theater parody is enlivened by Jonathan Webb and Chad Wise's songs and the sly references to such pop-culture sources as Michael Jackson's Thriller video and the "tiny dancer" scene in Almost Famous. Under Wise's direction, the actors display a straight-faced conviction that makes the most of the low-tech special effects (the arboreal ambush is a delight).

Terrorslide--also a spoof of horror movies--is fully improvised and thus limited by audience suggestions. The night I attended, a band of adolescent archetypes were lost in the dusky confines of a planetarium inhabited by a masked, black-robed assassin. Given this is an hour-long midnight show, the Mr. Fancypants ensemble indulges in a little too much character delineation, though Jason Anfinsen's Rebel gets off some smart quips and Trish Conlon's glassy-eyed Goth is a TV series unto herself. But once the players sink their, uh, teeth into the dramatic action, they're as intelligent as the horror-flick and improv-comedy genres allow.

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