Welcome to Pontypool, Ontario a quiet town where the population is difficult to keep track of because it’s rapidly dwindling.
Starting tonight, iTheatre Saratoga will bring “Pontypool” to the stage, a cult classic that combines horror with mystery and a dash of societal commentary.
“I’m a big fan of this particular piece, which I don’t think a lot of people know,” said Will Severin, iTheatre’s president.
It’s based on “Pontypool Changes Everything,” by Tony Burgess, which was adapted to the screen in 2009. The stage play was created years later, though it hasn’t been produced very often.
The story kicks off as Pontypool is being ripped apart by a mysterious epidemic. Grant Mazzy, a shock jock, is one of the first to hear the reports come in of people turning into zombies. Skeptical of the accounts, he asks “Is this more fake news?” Mazzy continues to broadcast as more reports of escalating violence in the streets come in and he tries to understand why the epidemic is spreading.
“I thought this would be really interesting to do as a stage play because the whole thing is intimate. There [are] basically four actors that you see on stage,” Severin said.
Last year, iTheatre Saratoga presented “Night of the Living Dead,” during the Halloween season and it was a major production with a wide scope. This year, the set is focused mostly on the town’s radio station, which is in the basement of a rickety building.
In some ways, the production pokes fun at America’s obsession with zombies. However, it also highlights the weight of words in our culture.
“That was the other thing that Mary Jane Hansen, our artistic director, we spoke about this because that’s one of the great things about ‘Night of the Living Dead,’ it’s been around forever but [it’s] still relevant. This piece is no different because just the fact that language plays such an important part,” Severin said.
“At some point, they express the point that it’s only in the English language so they start speaking french. The socio-political [implications of that are] so current,” Severin said.
The cause of the virus essentially turns the English language into a biological weapon, and with the discussion of “fake news,” the play also points to how language can be socially weaponized as well.
While there are zombies in the production, the show’s plot isn’t driven forward by gore or intense visual effects. Instead, it’s driven forward by sound.
“It is at a radio station and a lot of the information that’s relayed is people calling into the station whether it’s their roving reporter that’s out there or other people from other news agencies that may call in, the police chief from the town. That’s how we’re really painting the picture of the chaos that’s out there. A lot of it is creepy sound design, music,” Severin said, “it’s building that dread.”
Shock jock Grant Mazzy is played by Monk Schane-Lydon, radio producer Sydney Briar is played by Mary Jane Hansen and Dr. Mendez is played by Devin Funnye.
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. tonight - Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday
WHERE: Saratoga Arts 320 Broadway Saratoga Springs
TICKETS: $15 students, $25 for adults
MORE INFO: pontypool.brownpapertickets.com