Critics were enthusiastic about this sometimes rough first full-length play from spoken word artist Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay.
Randy Reyes has made a bold choice for his first production as Artistic Director of Theatre Mu. Actually, that’s a bit of an understatement. Reyes is not only producing but directing his inaugural show—which is a world premiere—by a first-time playwright—about a future apocalypse—in which zombies and cannibals have all but taken over the world.
Yikes. In the sense that “Kung Fu Zombies” is truly a one-of-a-kind experience, I’d say Reyes’ artistic gamble paid off.
…the play does best when it embraces its wackiness. Vongsay has a good sense of humor (and director Randy Reyes milks those moments to good effect) and I really wanted to see more of that. When the characters spent too much time explaining the back story, I tended to lose interest.
One of my favorite parts was the cameo by Jeannie Lander, as the evil cannibal priestess named Mara. Lander embraced Vongsay’s over-the-top style and delivered a gloriously malicious performance. I actually wish that she had a bigger part, because she was able to take the show to a higher stylized level.
Playwright Vongsay wraps all of this up in an exploration of Buddhist teachings, which provides part of the play’s structure and plenty of extra philosophical fiber to chew on. All of these elements don’t exactly play well together, but the generally solid work from the company, especially Kreidler as Sika, helps to pull it all together… And if the play starts to drift, there’s always a fight scene to break up the action.
When it’s time for a last stand against the undead horde, it’s like the climax of an old Toei film. Each fight scene builds up to a bigger, tougher challenge yet to come, pitting Sika and her band of antiheroes against increasingly impossible challenges as they level up in preparation to face the end boss. Fans of Shogun Assassin (or, for the purists, Lone Wolf and Cub) will delight in a stage play that takes its cues from the same source material that influenced Aaron McGruder and Quentin Tarantino, and accomplishes everything you used to be pretty sure live theater can’t do.
Have you seen “Kung Fu Zombies vs. Cannibals?” If so, what did you think?