While most Isla Vista residents celebrated Halloween weekend in the typical way (revealing clothing, large amounts of alcohol, etc.), Out of the Box Theatre Company offered a more interesting interpretation of the spooky holiday with their production of “Evil Dead: The Musical” at Center Stage Theater in Santa Barbara.
The show is a comedic musical adaptation of The Evil Dead, a cult horror film trilogy of the 1980s and ’90s, written and directed by beloved horror filmmaker Sam Raimi and starring Bruce Campbell. The first film follows a group of college students, led by the protagonist, Ash, on their spring break vacation to an abandoned cabin, where demons — the evil dead — are resurrected through a mysterious book. The next two films show Ash dealing with the demons and attempting to send them back where they came from.
The musical is very similar to the films and includes all the major characters, important scenes, and exact dialogue. However, the stage adaptation is clearly more comedy than horror. In the show’s first scene, the five main characters, while painfully smiling and snapping to the beat, belt out, “We’re five college students on our way to an old abandoned cabin in the woods!” This quote perfectly sums up how the show pokes fun at musical theater and horror film genre conventions.
The cast includes Ash (Adam Quinney), his girlfriend Linda (Samantha Eve), Ash’s best friend Scotty (Dillon Yuhasz), dumb blonde Shelly (Beth Faitro), and Ash’s uptight sister Cheryl (Jodie Morse). In the first act, Ash’s friends are slowly turned into demons and subsequently killed. In the second act, a couple looking for the cabin, Ed (Rob Grayson) and Annie (Brandi Wolff), along with their guide Jake (Sean Jackson), find Ash in the cabin and help him fight demons while avoiding becoming evil themselves. In the end, Ash is the only human survivor.
The whole cast is extremely talented, with perhaps the funniest performance coming from former UCSB Improvability member Dillon Yuhasz, whose character, Scott, is a brash college douchebag who repeatedly calls Ash’s sister a “stupid bitch” and enjoys tasteless (albeit hilarious) sexual jokes.
From “What the Fuck Was That?” — one of the show’s best and funniest songs — to Cheryl turning to the audience and saying, “This is really inappropriate,” before two men dressed as trees pretend to rape her, Evil Dead doesn’t shy away from being controversial for a laugh. In one scene, Ash’s hand is possessed by demons and he throws himself around the stage at the will of his uncontrollable limb before finally sawing it off. Another time, a moose head mounted on the wall of the cabin and Cheryl (after being turned into a demon) sing a duet together.
The actress who plays Cheryl, Jodie Morse, also delivers a good dose of comedy in the show, as she is the first to be turned into a demon and spends most of the show popping up from a trap door and delivering painfully awful (but also hilarious) puns and death threats to the other characters.
Guests seated in the first three rows of the theater, or the splatter zone, had the best seats in the house. Whenever a character was killed (or forced to saw off his own hand), guests in the splatter zone were generously splashed with fake blood — resulting in screams of delight.
As a devoted fan of classic horror films, musicals, puns and fake blood — Evil Dead: The Musical is more than I could ever ask for. With their latest show, Out of the Box Theatre Company has proven how important they are to the Santa Barbara art community as one of the few community theater outlets in town.
To see more from this talented crew, look for their production of the Tony Award Winning musical, “Spring Awakening,” in Spring 2012.