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Showing during Fringe Festival 2019, Church of Saint Bearer tells the story of a congregation during the zombie apocalypse. While you might think that this makes it focused on the battle between the dead and the living, you would be wrong.
Horror is not always an easy genre to present on stage, but Church of Saint Bearer still has all the elements that one would expect from a zombie story: we see a character “turn,” we see characters question letting an injured friend stay inside the church, and we get some gory effects and makeup. While the writing sounds like it would be a bit cliché, playwright Irene L. Pynn keeps the focus on the characters and their internal struggles.
The characters may struggle towards the end of the play (like one would expect in a horror story featuring zombies), but the play is slow to build and takes the time to ask deep questions through church sermons and confessionals. The characters question reality, they question why things are happening to good people, and they question what happens when you die.
A lot of these questions are asked by Victor, a young attendee who is concerned for his hospitalized grandma. The priest, however, is in denial of zombies and continues to site religious answers. The priest holds on to his faith, even pointing out how the media could be spinning the situation. This can be frustrating to watch, but it gives the audience a lot of insight into the characters and gives us a reason to care about their struggle.
The Yellow Venue at the Fringe Festival was perfectly sized to fit the needs of the performance. Much of the play takes place during church ceremonies, with the zombie action taking place after church one day. The venue made it feel more like a cozy church. The thin paper programs handed out prior to the performance even looked like they came from a church.
Church of Saint Bearer is well-cast, relatable, and nicely paced considering it’s telling a zombie story. It’s scary enough to fit in with other horror stories, but it isn’t afraid to explore other elements.