Review: ‘Evil Dead’ splatters audience with super-funny production

Nathan Payne plays Ash in the Rubber Chicken Theater production of “Evil Dead: The Musical” at the Underground in Duluth. Photo by Clint Austin | caustin@duluthnews.com)

Nathan Payne plays Ash in the Rubber Chicken Theater production of “Evil Dead: The Musical” at the Underground in Duluth. Photo by Clint Austin | caustin@duluthnews.com)

There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who march bravely across a floor covered in plastic wrap in a pair of surgical-caliber disposable shoe covers for a seat in the Splatter Zone, and those who mentally compute the squirt power of a common diner-style ketchup bottle and then move to the farthest reaches of the theater, far, far from the Splatter Zone.

The former were rewarded with a face full of intestines and an exaggerated amount of blood-like substance during Rubber Chicken Theater’s high-camp, super-funny, sing-along production of “Evil Dead: The Musical” Thursday at The Underground.

Did they, the few, the proud, the stained regret their front-row status?

Not likely. They were the first to offer up a standing O to the cast on opening night at The Underground. (Of course, that could’ve been Stockholm Syndrome.)

Five college students set out for week at a cabin in the woods. The team leader, Ash (played by Nathan Payne), is so over-the-top charming that you can see the twinkle in his eyeteeth. He seems primed for a weekend of bearskin rugs and Riunite on Ice with his girlfriend slash coworker Linda (Kendra Carlson) from S Mart.

(These two have a fantastic Broadway-style duet to the song “Housewares Employee.”)

His best friend Scott (Luke Moravec) is one of those potty mouth Polo shirt bros, flinging middle fingers and calculating conquests. Shelly (Ashley Grimm) is Scott’s date, a dim bar hookup with three days of romantic history between them.

The fifth wheel is Ash’s bookish little sister Cheryl (Rosy Dey), whose untimely death unleashes a heavy-metal demon who whips her hair and delivers threats in the form of puns.

Speaking of demons: The crew accidentally unleashes a terrible force that zombie-izes the characters one at a time. Soon Ash is the only one left standing — though he’s lighter on limbs than when he arrived. Incidentally, the loss of said limb is among the funniest moments in the show. It’s reminiscent of Jim Carrey in “Liar Liar” when the loose-’n’-limber character screams “I’m kicking my (butt), do you mind?”

Never fear, Ash. Help is on the way in Act II. Annie (Anna Vogt) and her boyfriend, Ed (Michael Pederson), are headed toward the family cabin. Vogt’s heaving vixen plays well against Payne (and she keeps getting nakeder and nakeder), and Pederson is one of the funnier characters even before he gets to finish a complete word.

Obviously, the script is dated. That’s part of the fun. This show is, after all, a satirical look at a very specific time and place in the horror genre. The gist would not be lost on a younger crowd, but the Henry Winkler reference might be.

There are things about horror flicks that sit a little heavier in 2014, particularly the misogyny. It is a little jarring when Scott calls Cheryl the B-word or tells her to shut her pie hole. But we are here to make fun of all of the horror tropes, so.

This is the company’s fourth run of the cornier-the-better take on Sam Raimi’s cult classic and its sibling movies. Payne, who first pushed for a production of the show in 2009, has said that this will be the last go-round. He wants to go out on a high note, he said.

This should suffice.

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GET TICKETS


What: Rubber Chicken Theater’s production of “Evil Dead: The Musical”
When: 7:30 p.m. | Thursday-Saturday through Nov. 1
Where: The Underground, 506 W. Michigan St.
Tickets: $22 – General Admission | $27 – Splatter Zone (includes commemorative T-shirt). Call (218) 733-7555 or buy tickets online. For Splatter Zone seating, you *must* call to reserve.

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This article originally appeared in the Duluth News Tribune on October 23, 2014 and was written by Christa Lawler.

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