This holiday season, Mountain View's Pear Theatre is steering away from traditional fare in favor of something a bit less "comfort and joy" and a bit more blood and guts; less "Night Before Christmas," more "Night of the Living Dead."
"Geeks vs. Zombies," opening this weekend and running through Dec. 18, tells the story of a group of friends who are all obsessed with some form of zombie-themed entertainment, whether it be comic books, video games or music. The titular geeks find themselves putting their encyclopedic knowledge, video-game skills and friendships to the ultimate challenge when they survive the "zombie apocalypse" and must find a way to use their combined strengths to defeat the hordes of brain-hungry undead.
"Geeks vs. Zombies" (by the same creator as "Super Villain!!," which played at the Pear two holiday seasons back) will be an action-packed, interactive production that engages audiences and makes them feel part of the story, according to director John Morrison.
"Audiences can expect something different from most theater productions. It's definitely more on the spectacle side, with crazy fights and banter between the geeks who are each obsessed with a different thing," Morrison said. "They each get so invested in culture, and the arguments they have are hilarious. There are zombies everywhere and that really tests their friendship. Watching it is a lot of fun."
The play was created by Pear Theatre regular James Kopp with David Rock in 2010 after they decided to write a script with a Halloween theme. Having originally considered writing a play similar to the classic zombie thriller "Night of the Living Dead," Kopp and Rock decided to take a different path and write something more out of the ordinary so their audiences wouldn't come in with preconceived notions about the play's storylines and characters. Choosing to use the concept of a "zombie apocalypse" as a key plot point, they also opted to include plenty of colorful language and multiple action scenes.
According to Kopp (who also serves as set designer, lighting designer, sound designer and fight choreographer), the play also explores themes such as "how we spend our time before we die," and "working with others." (He also warned parents that the show does contain some adult language and raunchy humor, as well as violence, and is recommended for mature audiences only.)
Once the play was written, Kopp asked Morrison, an old friend from high school, to come out to California from Chicago to help him direct the play. Morrison agreed and they first put on the show for the public at a theater in Bakersfield. They have now successfully produced the show twice in Bakersfield and once in Hollywood. The show has also been edited for a children's theater production in Bakersfield and been turned into a spin-off Web series. Morrison said he is excited to be directing a play in the Bay Area for the first time.
Acting-cast members Caroline Clark and Ariel Aronica said the show has a very different story and tone compared to most other plays they've been involved with.
"We create a lot of spectacle here. This is the kind of show where we battle a zombie, the zombie dies and people just erupt in applause," Clark said. "The script is also written in a way that makes the dialogue sound like the way friends talk and pick on each other when they hang out. There is a lot of playful banter."
The actors are also granted the freedom to make their characters their own, Aronica said, and joining the cast of nine featured performers is a "zombie ensemble" drawn from the general community.
"When we have a cast of real geeks, that makes it really fun. It's great because we all fit into our characters really well and that makes for a really interesting dynamic in the show," Aronica said. "I think we all bring something interesting to the characters."
What: "Geeks vs. Zombies"
When: Through Dec. 18, Thursday-Saturdays at 8 p.m.; Sundays at 2 p.m. (Sunday, Dec. 11, at 7 p.m.)
Where: The Pear Theatre, 1110 La Avenida St., Mountain View
Info: Go to The Pear