By Jackie Sibblies Drury
Zombies are everywhere. Of course, we’re not actually being overrun by the living dead, but by their representation. “The Walking Dead” is on AMC, “Night of the Living Dead” just ran at the Creative Alliance. And there are even more think pieces about why we’re into zombies than there are zombies. Right now, someone is probably writing a treatise about Ebola and zombies.
So, the question is: Why would a theater such as Single Carrot add another zombie to this already-crowded parade of slow walkers?
In "Social Creatures," everyone in the group goes by generic (and yet Tarantino-esque) pseudonyms, imposed by Mrs. Jones (Sophie Hinderberger)—as if to keep their true, pre-disaster identities separate from their desperate realities. Unfortunately, this strategy results in largely undeveloped characters who may waver, but don't change.
Mr. Johnson (Michael Salconi), who begins the play uninterested in the others, does end up undergoing a significant change that is far more profound than any transformation into a zombie, that other kind of "Social Creature." And all of the actors play their parts well; it's just that they aren't written with much depth, despite the videoed monologues in which they list their affiliations and memberships in the old world, back when belonging mattered so much more and so much less. It's a cool trick the way they actually deliver the lines in a room above the screen, their silhouettes visible through a window.
In general, the play looks really gritty and spooky and the Carrots pull off what there is to pull off. As in Annex Theater's "The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover" down the road, the play begins with the audience ushered through an alley, made part of the play's world. And there is a great bit of Grand Guignol—and plenty of gore—to enliven—or undeaden—the second half of the play.