Crowds have laughed and cried with the characters of Scott T. Barsotti’s “The Revenants,” currently playing at New World Arts, according to actor Keith Heibner.
“It went really strong both nights (of opening weekend),” Heibner said Wednesday. “We’ve had really good audience reaction.”
The play, which follows two couples in a post-zombie apocalypse world, stars four local actors. Heibner plays Joe, a man who is turned into a zombie near the beginning of the play.
“The most difficult parts are the technical aspects,” Heibner said. “We’re trying to present what’s going on as realistic, and we’re making sure the audience is drawn into the story.”
Heibner’s character is married to the still human Karen, played by Brittany Gardner Kennel. Gardner Kennel’s husband, Michael Kennel, plays Gary, a human married to now zombie Molly, played by Annie Swartley. Kennel said the dynamics are interesting between his character and the character his wife plays, especially when both of their spouses become zombies near the beginning of the play.
“It’s interesting,” Kennel said. “They definitely have feelings for each other. In their backstory, they have a long history together as just friends, but nothing romantic.”
Kennel said the play is not really about the zombies, but about what the zombies and post-apocalyptic world represents.
“Parts in the play deal with how much human is left in (the zombie),” Kennel said. “You’ll see glimpses of tenderness, and it tears at your heart sometimes.”
Swartley, who has worked before on several New World Arts productions as a behind-the-scenes crew member, said this is her first experience in this sort of role.
“I’m trying to get out of my comfort zone — in a good way,” she said. “I’ve had bad stage fright, but it’s cool to try something outside of the box.”
This is director Laura Gouin’s last production at New World Arts. The actors said they will miss her presence at the theater.
“I came to Goshen and New World Arts with a Laura Gouin production, and it’s kind of fitting that I’m on her last performance here,” Swartley said.
Kennel agreed that Gouin will be missed at New World.
“She’s a great director,” he said. “She brings a great image and vision to the project. It’s nice to have someone you’re comfortable working with, so that she can tell you when something’s not working out and you don’t take it personal.”
No matter what the audience takes away, Kennel said he hopes they enjoy themselves with this production, whether they focus on the zombies or the deeper storyline.
“With any play, you hope they enjoy the ride,” Kennel said. “You’re telling the story, and you hope they go with you.”
For more information, visit www.newworldarts.org.