Rome had bread and circuses. Arcata has stuffing and zombie wrestling. Scores were settled in gravy this past Saturday night at the Arcata Playhouse during the second annual Zombie Throw Down. Billed as a way to manage the local zombie problem, the show featured plenty of ghoulish makeup and audience participation. It was my first time in a theater where the stage was covered in trash bags and a kiddie pool, and I take that as evidence that I was raised right.
Hosted by the Kinetic People and the Rutabaga Queens, the undead brawl in Thanksgiving leftovers is the brainchild of queen and art director Kati Texas. The queens' oil wrestling event a couple of years ago, while intended to be WWF-style hilarity, sounded a bit too risqué, and the negative advance press spurred them on to the far more family-friendly zombie food fight. Nothing takes the sex out of wrestling like zombies and turkey.
As promised, the guards slopped the inflatable pool with gravy and pie, and the bouts began. The evening started off on a political note, with the gory but glamorous Zombie 1% taking a messy beating from the Golden Eagle, a masked Mexican-style wrestler representing the other 99%. From there, a parade of snarling, slippery undead fought for bragging rights and a fresh, pink brain on a plate. All the contestants and the cattle-prod toting guards went at it gamely, fully committed to the campy proceedings. Things took a nasty turn when special guest Santa suffered a bite from one of his elves and became a contender. In fact, Santa's three-way battle with Mrs. Claus and the flyweight elf was the best fight on the card, with Mrs. Claus and the elf dropping St. Nick like a stocking full of coal.
The production was a little shaggy, and at times the evening became more like a party than a performance. If some matches were lumbering (the walking dead do lumber) and a few lines were lost, that only made room for the rowdy audience to join in with hoots and hollers. Intermission went a bit long, and with the beer and Queentinis flowing at the bar, the audience came back fairly loose. Guards passed out handfuls of foamy faux stuffing to hurl at the zombies, but the audience members turned on one another, eventually pelting even the guards and the ref, who returned fire with some of the mess from the ring. Those in the "splash zone" made good use of their tarps. Undead little old lady G-Ma emerged from the pile as this year's champion, but I suspect the fix was in. The night ended with hearty applause and -- what else? -- a Thriller line dance.