What do the last two survivors on Earth talk about after a zombie apocalypse has killed off the entire human population? That is the novel concept behind Mark Pacan and Justin Purvis’ Z-The Apocalypse Improvised.
Z, a 100 percent improvised comedy/drama, stars Pacan and Purvis as Dwayne and Doug, seemingly old friends who have survived a horrible zombie apocalypse and now live together in a YMCA where they eat delicacies like cold canned beans and pineapple.
With an idea this promising and potentially hilarious it is a shame that Pacan and Purvis’ improvisation skills could not keep the audience’s attention during their overly long 60-minute show. Maybe surviving a zombie apocalypse is not that interesting after all or perhaps Improv shows are better when there are more cast members to add new inspiration and help diversify the dialogue.
Before they start, Pacan and Purvis explain a little about the show and ask the audience questions. The audience shouts out funny responses and then Pacan and Purvis work some of the suggestions into their improvised dialogue.
For this show, Pacan and Purvis worked in concepts such as horrible ex-boyfriends, failed marriages, the Harry Potter books, and being a puppeteer.
Both men are clearly comfortable in front of an audience and with each other as they energetically engage in banter over a game of charades. Their easy chemistry is refreshing and enjoyable and starts the show with tremendous energy and such funny antics as pantomiming eating beans with a small candle as a birthday treat.
Purvis is particularly gregarious with a loud, booming voice and an even louder laugh. Tall and self-assured, Purvis has a solid stage presence and is quick to laugh at his own jokes as well as Pacan’s. Pacan is an excellent foil for Purvis as the shorter, quieter, and more serious of the pair. As someone who truly enjoys Improvr, I was instantly engaged and excited to see what this duo had in store for its captive audience.
But, alas, about twenty minutes into the show, the men had already discussed being a puppeteer (though with some funny pantomiming by Purvis), lamented over Pacan’s failed marriage to someone named Mary who cheated on him with her horrible ex-boyfriend, and brought up Purvis’s interest in magic and all things Harry Potter (though he seemed to struggle to remember some of the details of the books).
So, with 40 minutes left, what else is there to discuss? Not much. But in a nod to the 2004 remake of the zombie movie classic, “Dawn of the Dead”, the duo suits up with big pantomimed guns and ventures outside the YMCA to see what is going on in the world. They never explain that there are live zombies out there in the dark but the audience generally figures that out. I was ready for some zombie action, but after standing and staring into the back of the theater for a minute, the two just turn around and go back inside their safe space. That seemed like an opportunity missed.
The few laughs in the second half came from the usual, comedy routes like masturbation and penis jokes. I am sure that these two have more to offer the Improv world and I can only hope that in future performances they will figure out how to keep the dialogue fresh and interesting for their audience.
Z-The Apocalypse Improvised has 4 more performances at The Redrum – Fort Fringe, 607 New York Ave NW, Washington, DC.
Sabrina rates this 3 out of 5.
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