Dead White Zombies' latest, Bull Game, written and directed by Thomas Riccio, promises more than it delivers. Maybe that's the point. Maybe not.
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Staged in a drafty warehouse in the new Trinity Groves hipsterhood west of the Trinity River, the show is an overstretched metaphor about the American obsession with violent sports. In an arena-like setting, the audience (mostly young and male, which is intriguing) is split at random into red and blue teams seated opposite each other on low benches. Patrons fill out a questionnaire on arrival, asking for age and level of competitiveness (me: "None whatsoever"). "Where it says 'Are you a pro-creator?,' does that mean if you want to have babies?" asked a young woman in the lobby.
To the shrieks of four cheerleaders in streaky black eye makeup — Stephanie Cleghorn, Christina Martin, Danielle Fletcher and Becki McDonald — the "game" begins. The Hunger Games-like hostesses, played by Laura McCarty and Ilknur Ozgur, purr provocative phrases into their microphones and stomp around the floor in long dresses. Enter the champ, Bruno the Bull (Chris Piper, always a strong presence, whatever the role), prepping for his challenger, Conrad the Condor (Abel Flores, underplaying to a puzzling degree).
Bull Game continues through November 30 at Dead White Zombies, 2900 Bataan St. For tickets, visit deadwhitezombies.com.
Will they physically fight? Arm wrestle? Fence with lightsabers? Try to out-eat each other with a plate of greasy chicken wings? Nope. None of the above. Are the audience "teams" pulled off the benches and made to compete at something? That would be awkward and dangerous, which would be way more entertaining than not being asked to do anything, which is what happens. We're made ready to rumble, only to be left on the sidelines.
Bruno and Conrad never fight but they do talk a lot, as does their angry "coach" (Brad Hennigan in a Tom Landry hat). They also circle each other making menacing gestures. They toss a silver ball around a little. They swing like apes on suspended rubber tires. But that's about it for action. In a show that makes a lot of noise about the ritual of violent competition, Bull Game pulls its punches.