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Hollywood Fringe 2024: Low on Milk

Musical-comedy Low on Milk offers a unique variation on the zombie apocalypse: it’s the 1940s, and milk rations are low because of the walking dead, so Mom (writer-director-producer Carmen Katrini Rohde) sets off on a quest for lactose. Why her husband stays at home is never explained; presumably, baby-feeding is her responsibility, and it is her fault for not producing enough breast milk.

That’s right: Low on Milk is more a satire of antiquated gender roles than a genre spoof. It’s all about the travails of being a people-pleasing mother who puts her personal needs aside in order to please her family – at any cost. Tellingly, its most horrifying impact comes not from zombies but from breast pumps designed to stimulate milk production, which come across like torture devices.

Low on Milk stage review
The real horror of Low on Milk is breast pumps.

The milk-quest leads to encounters with various humans and zombies (here named “mombies” because they desire milk rather than brains). Along the way, it is revealed that the scarcity has been artificially manufactured in order to increase profits, and mom learns a lesson about occasionally putting herself first.

The result is mildly amusing withe a few good jokes, and the stylizes slow-motion fights scenes of mom outmaneuvering the zombies are fun. The songs are decent, and the vocals are not too bad, but the real musical star is Anni Kiviniemi, who performs the accompaniment on tambourine, whistle, and piano (sometimes pounding on the latter as a percussion instrument).

The zombie element is so relatively minimal that it almost feels tacked on to generate interest in a comedy about the travails of breast-feeding. To be fair, there is some attempt to draw a metaphorical connection, but it’s a little vague. Home life with dad and the kids feels barely a step away from zombiedom, but is the problem that societal expectations are turning mom into a zombie or that everyone around her already is a zombie?

It is easy to sympathize with mom’s predicament, and her quest is not without some entertainment value, but in the end Low on Milk does not fully deliver as either a genre spoof or a social satire. Mom learns her lesson, but when she returns to her family, you feel that little has changed. Whether this is meant to suggest the difficulty of effecting change or to spoof unrealistic happy endings, it’s not quite the punchline the play needs. Ultimately, we think the play should have embraced the zombie element more fully, turning the living dead into an embodiment of the forces restricting our resourceful protagonist to a traditional maternal role when she is clearly capable of so much more.

Low on Milk

Rating Scale

1 – Poor
2 – Mediocre
3 – Good
4 – Great
5 – Excellent

Low on Milk stage reviewLow on Milk is not without some entertainment value, but it does not fully deliver as either a genre spoof or a social satire.

Low on Milk is part of Hollywood Fringe Festival 2024. Get more information here.

Credits: Carmen Kartini Rohde: writer, producer, director. Josh McCay: producer. Bre Fowler: scripty supverisor and photographer. Chrissie de Guzman: guest director (scene 6). Jenny tran: guest director. Chiara Sandler: consulting producer. eric Rollins: combat choreography. Anni Kiviniemi: musical accompaniment.

Cast: Carmen Kartini rohde, Bryan Philip Cruz, Jeanne Jo, Christine Weatherup, Gabby Estey, Michanne Quinney, Bre Melino, Jordyn Barber, Eric Rollins.

Low on Milk photographs

Steve Biodrowski, Administrator

A graduate of USC film school, Steve Biodrowski has worked as a film critic, journalist, and editor at Movieline, Premiere, Le Cinephage, The Dark Side., Cinefantastique magazine, Fandom.com, and Cinescape Online. He is currently Managing Editor of Cinefantastique Online and owner-operator of Hollywood Gothique.