Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Theatre review: Alien Contagion: Rise of the Zombie Syndrome is a grand adventure

This is the fourth year that The Virtual Stage has created an expansive and interactive zombie experience. The first outbreak was in downtown Vancouver, the second on Granville Island, and last year it was Gastown. I can’t tell you where Alien Contagion: Rise of the Zombie Syndrome takes place this year because … well … they are watching.

I can tell you that in this year’s edition the stakes are higher because an alien spaceship has crash-landed in an area heavily populated with zombies. Through a series of adventures, it is the “audience’s” job to find the spacecraft and quell the zombie uprising. The ultimate goal? Save the human race, of course.

Joining up with other players at your appointed time, you are greeted by an army official who informs you that you are now part of an elite team to help with their current zombie crisis. Each participant is given a random name tag with job titles such as surgeon, psychic, actor, navigator, muscle, etc.  Led by a frantic and slightly eccentric army Major, played sternly but with a wink by Ron Chartier, you are off to your first rendezvous point.

Each point gives you a puzzle or mystery to solve, and along the way zombies pop out. And while the zombies can be held back by the beams of your flashlight, the group I was with decided to scream and run whenever they appeared. The result was a giddy and thrilling adrenaline rush as we often found ourselves running in the dark while zombies snarled and clawed at us.

Some of the other characters you meet include a creepy alien played with eccentric anguish by Sinead Grewcock; a desperate but hopeful Marina Pasqua as a frantic scientist; and a smiling but chill inducing Man In Black played by Jake Anthony. Our group didn’t get to find out how the final character contributed to the story because we just ran away from him, screaming in delight.

The theatrical experience is a grand adventure if you are with a fun group, and there are three or four possible endings depending what choices you make. If you throw yourself into the experience and your character you will definitely get more out of the evening.

In the end your decisions may come back to haunt you, as my group ended up destroying the planet. Sorry about that… Maybe we should have listened to the Man In Black? Or maybe we didn’t put the puzzle together properly? Or maybe we should have helped the soldier?

If you overthink it, the juxtaposition of the aliens into the zombie field may feel rather arbitrary, but you’re best to just accept it and just have fun running, screaming, and laughing.

And if you get it right you may even save the world, and that is a pretty epic night out unto itself.

Alien Contagion: Rise of the Zombie Syndrome conceived, written, directed and produced by Andy Thompson. Story by Tyler Clarke, Finn Ghosh-Leudke and Andy Thompson. A Virtual Stage production. On stage in various secret locations until November 1. Visit https://www.thevirtualstage.org for tickets and information.

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