Look Away! A Civil War Zombie Tragedy

When: Oct. 30-Nov. 8 2009

In 2007, the New Moon Theatre Company debuted Look Away, a Civil War zombie tale by Memphis playwrights Zac Cunningham and Stephen Briner. Now — like all good undead creatures of the night — it’s coming back to life, and, according to director Gene Elliott, it’s “more gritty and gruesome” than ever. The play, about a family confronting unknown terrors at the end of the Civil War, is more than an homage to the classic zombie flicks of George Romero and Dario Argento.

“Placing the show in the Civil War era works well, because it mirrors what’s going on today,” Elliott says. “The country is so divided ideologically and politically that you can easily draw parallels to the Civil War. As each side tears at the other, we have zombies show up. The one thing zombies can do is work as a unified group toward their shared goal: eating brains. In our show, we have a rainbow zombie hoard: black, white, male, and female. They can get along with no arguments or misunderstandings. The live humans can’t agree on anything. It makes for a wonderful parable.”

Zombies have become the flesh-devouring masters of pop culture. They’re everywhere. Memphis’ downtown zombie march has grown into a popular annual event. The film Zombieland is doing good business at the box office. Even Jane Austen’s classic romance Pride and Prejudice has been re-imagined as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and is currently a best-seller.

“There does seem to be something about their nature that will grab people,” Elliott says. “Their sheer abandon and raw desire seem to be what drives some people’s attraction to them. For the observer, as you watch the shambling zombie, you don’t have to feel any sympathy. They’re dead, so whatever happens to them is totally acceptable. It’s like watching a train wreck and not having to feel bad for the victims.” — Chris Davis

Chris Davis

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