Friday, 31 August 2012

Evil Dead: the Musical

I'm a huge Bruce Campbell fan (and generally of B movies at any rate).  I didn't like the first Evil Dead movie - I didn't "get it", but really loved Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness.

Some time ago I saw a billboard advertising a play.  A musical, in fact.  I found out it was playing at Vertigo Theatre, which is in downtown Calgary, just under the Calgary Tower.  When I checked out the tickets, I found out two interesting things:  this was the first play I'd ever heard of with a "Splatter Zone" (which was $15 more expensive per seat) and that they also had child ticket rates.  My friend Rob agreed to see this with me.  He likes plays and many musicals, but didn't know what this was about.  I also brought Tim and Erin with me, buying them kid's tickets.  I elected to not pay for the Splatter Zone upgrade for any of us.

When we got to Vertigo, there were posters all over the place with a long list of rules for Splatter Zone people.  No going to the lobby during intermission.  No using the bathrooms unless you check with the door staff (after which they laid down a plastic runner from the theatre to the bathroom).  After the performance, people in the regular seats would leave first, and the Splatter Zone people would be lead through the stage and outside, then directed to a meeting place outside to hook up with their lame, normal-seat friends.

When I scanned the playbill, I grew a little concerned.  They listed the songs.  "Stupid Bitch", "What the Fuck Was That?", "Death is a Bitch", and "Blew that Bitch Away" were some of them!  Rob leaned over and said to me "I don't think bringing your kids was such a hot idea."  Well…. yeah.  But I know what they watch on the Internet and on TV, so wasn't too concerned.  I didn't particularly want this to get back to Penny, though, so told the kids to cool it when they got home.

The play was good.   Very good, really.  I wasn't too much into the music, but I grew to like most of the songs after listening to them afterward.  The kids adored it, but were rather put out that they didn't get to sit in the Splatter Zone.  The people there wore ponchos and got shot with blood streams from the stage, from a sprinkler setup directly over them, and from the "big fight scene" where actors came off stage with some kind of gushing apparatus and ensured everyone in that zone got their money's worth.

Well, the play was a hit.  The response was so good that it came back to Calgary recently.  This time it was in the Pumphouse Theatre (a great name, considering the gushing blood signature of the play).  When I asked the kids if they'd like to go, they were all over it.  They also made sure that the Splatter Zone would be an option.  I also allowed Tim to bring a couple friends who are also big-time into Bruce Campbell flicks.  I offered to take Rob, but he decided it wasn't really "his cup of tea."  Fair enough!  I bought four Splatter Zone tickets in the back row of that area (Section 'b', R4, Seats 3-6), and one ticket for me right behind them (Section 'B', R1, Seat 4).  I noted the nice gap between the Splatter Zone (red) and the main floor seats behind them.  The kids dressed in their "bad" clothes, and I wore a pleasant collared shirt and my good jeans.   It's the theatre, after all!

In reality, the Pumphouse has an interesting layout and not quite as depicted.  It's smaller than I thought it would be, and there is NO SPACE behind the Splatter Zone.  Worse, my seat was prepared just like the Splatter Zone seats:  it was covered by a clear plastic garbage bag.  It was right behind the Splatter Zone, with aircraft-like seat spacing (if I stretched out my legs, my feet went under the chair in front).  The kids all got ponchos.  Not me.  I grabbed a garbage bag in preparation for the show, hoping to stave off the majority of collateral damage.

The first act was very good.  The actors were fine, and their campy jokes really held up.  The singing was incredibly good, and I enjoyed it all the more because I got into the songs since the first time I saw the performance.  Unlike the first time we saw the production, there was no spraying of blood into the audience before the intermission.  There was lots of blood on stage though, and they really pulled off the segue from the first act where Ash is chainsawing a demon's head when the cabin's owner walks in:  "It's not as bad as it looks!"

After the short break where people got their drinks, snacks, and grips with the restroom, we got back to our seats and ponchos were offered to the Splatter Zone people and, thankfully, to people in the first two rows of the green seats after a little negotiation.  I protected my shoes under my daughter's seat.  The second half was very good and "Do the Necronomicon" was incredibly raunchy.  They saved the blood shower for the final fight scene (unlike the Vertigo production which spurted and squirted in both acts, but really opened the flow during the battle).  The actors did most of the "painting" by wandering amongst the Splatter patrons and gushing on them with some kind of a pumping device.  I was thankful for the poncho and got a fair amount of castoff.  My arms, which stuck out of the short poncho sleeves, looked like I had just performed surgery.

The kids loved the show.  I was let out first.  They emerged shortly afterward out the back of the theatre.  It was a cool scene because it was dusk and the path was lit by yellow, dim streetlights.  The Splattered Patrons came out, covered in a corn syrup based blood, which made them sticky, and they tended to walk with their arms extended (to avoid sticking to their clothes) with stiff, slow steps.  VERY zombie-like!  I tried to take a video of that and messed it up, unfortunately.  The experience was really excellent and I'll remember it forever.  Tim, Ethan, Kasden and Erin were all back against a brick wall, trying to get their ponchos off - they were absolutely covered and that stuff is really sticky.  But the "blood" is very realistic!  Even without the ponchos they were still quite covered, and they found that nodding their heads gave them a strange sensation because of the goo they were covered with.  It took me about 10 minutes to line the seats with plastic to get the kids home.

On the way home, the kids kept trying to get the attention of other drivers when were stopped at traffic lights, and were delighted when I stopped at a 7-11 for a snack.  We really creeped out the cashier!  Here's a compilation of my photos - good and bad because of variable lighting, and the flash bleached out most of the detail when I tried to compensate for the dim lighting.

We loved the show.  I would have liked to see more blood shooting onto the people in the Splatter Zone throughout both acts, but it was well worth the money.  Erin let me know that every time the production comes back to town that I'm to buy her a ticket, and it must be in the splatter zone.

Friday, 24 August 2012


Although I deal with a lot of genetics and genomics issues for my class, I am fascinated with proteins.  They are three-dimensional tools that have, through evolution, become optimized to carry out their functions effectively.

Here's a simulation of a substrate's point of view about what it's like to be transported into the nucleus through a nucleopore!

You can see the effect of nucleopores in this video.