Whatever the reasons for our current cultural embrace of the zombie apocalypse, live theater has largely been spared the plague. It is, after all, rather more difficult to convey the specter of undead, swarming hordes through stagecraft. Instead, The Revenants, a play by Scott T. Barsotti given its Northwest premiere by local troupe the Reformers, focuses upon the harrowing toll wrung from survivors witnessing their nearest and dearest transform into nearly unrecognizable monsters. Presented in an actual residential garage in the Buckman neighborhood (and held during torrential downpours on opening weekend), there's no shortage of verisimilitude to the production. Tricks of lighting, eerily convincing makeup and bravura soundwork all combine to manufacture a remarkably macabre mise en scène that, nevertheless, must live and die on the abilities of the actors portraying those who have passed this mortal coil. Zombified Molly (Jennifer Elkington) and Joe (company founder Sean Doran) have been chained to the walls by their respective spouses (Chris Murray and Christy Bigelow), who hope that some shred of their paramours' former selves remains. Murray and Bigelow accomplish yeoman's work as our putative heroes, struggling with a script long on forced humor and dimly revelatory monologues. Grimm vet Murray, in particular, boasts the sort of scruffy sparkle that makes genre vehicles sing. But it's the performances of Elkington and Doran—forearm-chewing figures of devolved menace who spend the near 90 minutes as grunting, slobbering scenery—that wrap even the more lurid emotional flashpoints within the skin of fresh horror.
SEE IT: The Revenants is at 1126 SE 15th Ave., thereformerspdx.com. 8 pm Thursdays-Sundays through Oct. 19. $15-17.