Sometimes the destination really doesn't matter -- it's all about the journey. Which is a fancy way of saying that in "Evil Dead: The Musical" there's nothing worth calling a plot, theme, central action or anything much you'd call dramatic. It's mainly about the buckets of blood that splatter along the way ... and how do they do all that and also keep straight faces, let alone their feet from slipping in the cheery gore?
Even those who don't know the popular 1981 film and its sequels need no briefing on the set up, which is pure formula (that's the point): five horny college kids invade an empty forest cabin for a week of freedom and hanky-panky. But little do they know (mwah-hah-hah!) that its owner, an eccentric professor of ancient rituals of the undead, has unleashed some ancient ghouls, and these woods are now alive with more than the sound of music.
We know that splatter comedy will be the order of the day because we've been issued plastic ponchos with our programs and the theater lobby is itself draped in plastic. But to heighten the fun, the first crimson spray is a relatively long time coming, and when it does, it hits the set, not the audience. Meanwhile, we're teased with snippets of apparent plot and half-witty dialogue (book and lyrics by George Reinblatt), like a sitcom not quite bad enough to turn off.
Soon comes the next splatter, then a fountain, then an angry spray. As one who sat several rows back (albeit in the center) and was smart about anticipating the direction that the next knife, bullet or chain saw would have its result, let me testify that you can crouch, but you cannot hide. Not to worry: it comes off in the wash.
Back in what passes for plot, just as the original five have begun to tire us or die off, welcome reinforcements arrive, mainly a cute little blonde and a country not-so-bumpkin. She's knows about ancient ghouls, because the professor was her father and she can read his hieroglyphs. (This "Book of the Dead" is far from Tibetan.)
But that's more than enough about plot. More important, you'll find memories of "Rocky Horror" (Brad and Janet, mainly) and George Romero, shreds of opera pastiche and a cut-off hand with a mind (?) of its own. There's a lively musical quartet doing bouncy country, rock and other modes (music by Mr. Reinblatt and others) -- it really is a musical, with more than two dozen songs. One will remind you of "Mr. Cellophane" from "Chicago." There's a Fonz reference and doubtless much, much more.
Not to mention zombies dancing (choreography by Kaitlin Dann), guts spilling out like the sausage links they are and a thicket of puns. As with those, the occasional badness of the acting is probably intentional.
As the young man who stands tall, makes female hearts beat faster, survives the loss of body parts and gives the undead as good as he gets, David Bielewicz is indomitable. Maggie Carr is the nerdy cutie and Brad Stephenson the bumpkin with (judging by its bloody output) the biggest heart.
Or maybe that's Parag Gohel, who's the professor one minute and a human blood hydrant the next. Andrew Swackhamer doubles as feckless victim and talking moose, and the other college kids are Madeline Wolf, Philippe Arroyo, Adriana Milbrath and Julianne Avolio.
But the true heroes are the techies who make the blood spurt, set dance and moose do its thing (eight of them created that moose). The special effects are by Tolin FX, recently a creative force in Pittsburgh theater.
All of this, onstage and backstage, has been brought together by director Don DiGiulio, also artistic director of No Name Players, which apparently knows no project it cannot tackle.
The show starts slow but grows on you, or maybe you just yield to its loopy theatricality. So stay with it. The whole thing, including the essential intermission (a chance to wash off some blood and admire those who got doused big time), comes in at barely two hours of foolishness and fun.
Senior theater critic Christopher Rawson: 412-216-1944.