The infamous Colma, California is a small town just south of San Francisco where, thanks to a significant chunk of the city’s land being devoted to an absurd number of cemeteries, the dead outnumber the living by a jaw-dropping 1,000 to 1. With roughly 1800 living residents, that’s a lot of stiffs. No wonder the city’s official motto is "It's great to be alive in Colma."
Colma’s role as The Golden State’s personal necropolis dates all the way back to the Gold Rush, when San Francisco decided that the fortune-seekers dying off from all those incoming diseases shouldn’t take up valuable real estate, and would be better off making their eternal home elsewhere.
Written by Mark Jabaut and directed by Marcy Gamzon, the enjoyable play “Colma!” imagines what happens when the city’s blustery leader, Mayor Pleen (Morey Fazzi) enlists the help of outside consultants (Nancy K. Fancher and Larry Ploscowe) to help the town generate some much-needed revenue. Desperate for a sexy angle on a place where curb height seems to be the hottest topic of conversation, the pair decide to use the city’s ghoulish reputation to build up tourism in the area. They enlist the services of an alleged witch (Maria Sanguedolce) to help them commune with the dead, and she turns out to be more successful than they’d bargained for. Soon all manner of zombie, ghost, spirit, and apparition begin to emerge from their tombs.
Some of the city’s notable corpses include Levi Strauss, Wyatt Earp, Joe DiMiaggio, and William Randolph Hearst — a couple of whom end up making appearances as Colma’s deceased population spring back to life.
For all the spooky goings on, “Colma!” is much more concerned with tickling its audiences’ funny bones than tingling their spines. Even if I wished for things to get a bit more macabre than they ever do (though that’s more to do with my own personal tastes than any shortcoming of the play) I was charmed by its goofily good-natured spirit. With strong performances from its small ensemble, “Colma!” is funny and entertaining enough to even get a rise out of the undead.
Colma! will be performed again at the School of the Arts: Black Box Theatre on Saturday, September 14, 5 p.m. $15. 13 and over.