Would it surprise anyone to learn that the better part of my childhood was spent glued to a television, watching just about every horrible film ever made?
I didn't think so. But a life wasted scarfing up bad movies is not without its plusses -- the chief one being that I was able to appreciate most of the jokes in the cult musical Zombies From Beyond, receiving its Pittsburgh premiere at the Theatre Factory.
Plan 9 From Outer Space, Mars Needs Women, Invaders From Mars and just about every other sci-fi B-movie from the '50s and '60s is mashed together in this loving spoof of both the rotten cinema and innocent culture of the Eisenhower era.
The story finds a group of hapless but earnest military and scientific yahoos, from their secret command center in Milwaukee, looking into the heavens with their new outer-space camera and discovering a UFO about to attack. It turns out that the aliens hail from Planet X and, as their leader, Zombina, explains, all the guys back home have died and she's roaming the galaxy looking for a few good men to restock the planet.
Zombina's secret weapon is her ethereal soprano voice, which turns earthlings into zombies ready to do her bidding. It takes a few plucky earth lasses, and a spunky deli delivery boy, to foil the invasion.
With a script, music and lyrics by James Valcq, Zombies winks gently at the audience, engendering a sweet nostalgia for an innocent time and for an art form of considerably less technical sophistication. Valcq's idea is a clever one, and his talent for assembling a cohesive story from his various sources is genuinely amusing.
The show, however, doesn't really rise to its promise. This is lampoon, not satire; the spoofy goofiness is fun at the beginning, but Valcq never goes any further. I wasn't looking for acid-edged commentary, but Zombies ends up being as sweet-natured and silly as the time period it wants to mock.
Director/choreographer Jeremy Czarniak heads up a solid Theatre Factory production. Though I wouldn't have minded a bit more outrageousness in the playing style, Czarniak's work is professional and precise ... and his choreography funny in its own right.
A strong cast, including Joan Russell, Carrie Elizabeth Zosack, Justin Thomas Zeno, Brittany R. Graham, Corey Nile Wingard, Christopher Horsman and Jordan Grubb run through their paces with polish and talent with an able assist from music director Nancy Gordon-Galluzzo.
Zombies From Beyond continues through Sept. 23. The Theatre Factory, Cavitt Avenue and Third Street, Trafford. 412-374-9200.