THE Fringe Festival is bursting with one-per son shows, but you won’t find any two more different in tone than “Zombie” and “That Dorothy Parker.” Each offers distinct pleasures, though “Zombie” – based on a Joyce Carol Oates novella – offers the more chilling variety.
Adapted and performed by Bill Connington, “Zombie” takes the form of a harrowing 60 minutes spent in the company of Quentin P., a gay sex offender whose goal is to create a zombie to fulfill his needs.
His plan: Find a young man, drug him into submission and perform a makeshift lobotomy with an ice pick.
As he discloses, in gruesome detail, things don’t go as planned, and most of his conquests end up dead.
“The disposal of these fabulous-looking guys . . . it’s a downer,” he whines.
Relating the tale in a flat, Midwestern accent, Connington delivers a haunting characterization that’s all the more unnerving for its surface blandness. The piece is further enhanced by Thomas Caruso’s intense staging and by a performance space that feels as claustrophobic as an attic.
By contrast, Carol Lempert’s one-woman show, “That Dorothy Parker,” offers touching, mostly lighthearted relief. The actress delivers a beautifully modulated turn as the woman who, as one of the wits of the Algonquin Round Table, helped define her literary times.
Using the recent death of Parker’s colleague Alexander Woollcott as the starting point, Lempert delivers a freewheeling account of the writer’s life, loves and career, mixing in generous amounts of her witty prose and poetry along the way.
Between shots of scotch, Parker decries her celebrity (“We were merely manufacturing wisecracks”) and laments the lack of attention paid to her more serious work, including her coverage of the Spanish Civil War.
The piece captures the spirit of a writer who was far more than the witticisms (“Men don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses”) that made her famous.