It’s hard to do a sequel to a play where the basic premise is to take you off guard. The conceit in last year’s Theater Undreground Halloween show, Not What You Expected, was to lure in theater-goers with the promise of a show about an up-and-coming rock band, then surprise and shock the audience when the theater, and the players themselves, are suddenly attacked by zombies. The Grand Guignol that followed was inspired, chaotic fun and left many TUG regulars apparently dead, and the theater itself a blood-stained mess. If you missed it, too bad, it was a great bit of live theater. But how do you pull off that trick twice? Can you catch the audience completely off guard a second time?
Katelin Stack, co-writer of the first play, has decided it’s worth a try, with Still Not Quite What You Expected, and TUG is producing their first ever sequel — possibly (according to their publicity) the first ever original sequel play staged in McHenry County. Sequels are hard to pull off, and traditionally don’t do as well in the box office as the originals (at least in movies). The audience apparently believed this, as the show’s crowd this Saturday night (Oct. 23) was smaller than last year’s sold-out performances. Which is too bad, because, once again, TUG has provided a wild and raucous good time for your Halloween pleasure.
Not surprisingly, this show — being a sequel — starts with references to the last show. The show-within-a-show band makes a reappearance, and there’s even a zombie attack in the first few minutes. That’s not too surprising, probably (which is why I’m revealing it), but it does both remind you what came before and serve as a springboard for what’s to come. The players, both characters and play-within-a-play actors, weren’t too happy about last year’s proceedings being interrupted, and this year, they’re not going to take it lying down. But they, like the audience, are in for another surprise.
This is the point where I can’t reveal much more about the show without giving too much away. Leave it to say that you’ll see some familiar characters — including TUG regular, and popular local musician, Ian Hall being portrayed (and portrayed well) by Todd Law — and one or more invaders who, again, may not be what you expected. The cast has great fun with the story and, once again, the theater is filled with chaos and left in a condition requiring sweeping (if not mopping) up. Kudos to the cast in general, but particularly to Stack – for both writing and acting – Jeremy Greenfield, for both directing and acting, and Christian Baker, who practically steals the show with a sparkling and funny performance.
If you are a fan of local theater, you should see this show. If you are a fan of monsters — either from recent movies or literature or both — you should see this show. If you are looking for something fun to do on Halloween weekend, you should see this show. Our performance had live accompaniment by thunder and lightning. I can’t guarantee yours will have frightful weather, but I do think you’ll have a good time.
With luck, next year’s Halloween show — whether sequel or not — will be just as much fun.
(PS — All you players and participants need to get your bios and character names into the next program! You make it hard on reviewers if you don’t!)