Regina—a sassy and, somewhat trashy small town mess—gets wasted, crashes her truck, and awakes on the “other side.” Well, kinda. Instead of fully crossing into the afterlife, she’s stuck trudging through a purgatory poignantly reimagined through pop-culture’s current “It” ghoul: the Zombie. No one in Regina’s rural town readily accepts her malformed state, what with her gaping wounds and creaky gait and all. She strikes fear even in the heart of her mother.
To be among the living but not alive is her curse—not the wearing of tattered flesh—because Regina’s not your run-of-the-mill, mindless, walking corpse. She’s angry, lonely, and anxious. And just as droll, with a side of edge, as her corporeal self. Dead or undead, hanging with Regina is like having fast food or a one-night stand. You know – easy, fun, and cheap without all the gooey depth expected from high cuisine or real relationships. Except that, something profound stirs within Regina, whose emotional journey leaves you rooting for her to emerge victorious over the boundaries drawn by tragedy and death. Namely, that she finds acceptance as she is now, knowing her existence will never fully be the same.
Half Life (a zombie love letter for no one) is a disturbingly charming tale built on resonant performances—Rachel Hynes as Regina and Jonathan Lee Taylor as a series of “Others”—that marries the subtle with the outlandish in spectacular fashion. Hynes’ Regina lacks the “woe-is-me” melodrama one might expect in a girl emerging from one nightmare (car crash) only to stumble into another (a world of rejection). Instead, she uses angst-y prattle to paint Regina as a fighter, reminding us that survivors are more common than heroes.
Taylor jumps from character to character, never living in a skin for more than a few seconds. He’s librarian, pastor, nemesis, boyfriend, mother, and bar owner without reducing any to caricature, which would be easier when covering as much ground as he does in an hour, toeing that balance between being funny and making fun of. Taylor makes it feel as if you’ve spent the evening in the company of a whole town; the show is brief, but rich with perspective and intimacy, just like a blink-and-you-may-miss-it, close-nit, rural community.
Hynes, too, is brilliant—that she also “devised” the show, creating not just its premise and story but also contributing to its remarkable production, is impressive. She blends horror, comedy, and tragedy to capture how a catastrophe is never just a single act. It’s a multifaceted event that thrust individuals into the unknown, shaping their lives with a cosmic force they can only hope lessens before they’ve transformed into an irretrievable shell.
Hynes, as Half Life’s Creative Leader, has led a remarkable team in crafting something unique, timely, and wonderful. Because, what’s evident in Half Life is that deliberate thought went into how each detail matters within the larger piece. From Regina’s t-shirt, tights and side ponytail combo to the original music that bubbles just beneath the action, giving it both warmth and jarring chills, almost as if it’s a character itself.
January 29 – February 22, 2015
Mead Theatre Lab
916 G St NW
1 hour: no intermission
Thursdays thru Sundays
With her, begging for acceptance is about more than asking her to see beyond recent wounds. Their pining for one another in absentia is both sad and sweet; misfortune and all its companions are not only catalyst for reconciliation (with others and self) but also better fought with companionship. Never is that better captured than in Regina’s mother’s prayers, recited as across the stage Regina sings a soft song at a hard place (Gentleman’s Club). It’s tender and full of that numb-like yearning born of loss.
Half Life (a zombie love letter for no one) really is a love letter to everyone that anyone can appreciate.
Half Life (a zombie love letter for no one) Devised by: Rachel Hynes, Joshua Drew, Jonathan Lee Taylor, Tyler Herman . Performers: Rachel Hynes, Jonathan Lee Taylor . Outside Eye: Joshua Drew, Tyler Herman . Production Manager: Natalie Gallagher . Stage Manager: Kaylin Peachy . Set Design: Brian Gillick . Costumes: Brittany Graham . Lights: Mary Keegan . Choreography: Nora Rosengarten . Stage Manager: Kaylin Peachey . Reviewed by Kelly McCorkendale.
More information at Half Life2015.com