April 29, 2013

NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD LIVE -- Fresh & Funny Zombie Comedy

DEAD LIVE (2013)
[Stage Production]

Director: Christopher Bond
Writers: Dale Boyer and Trevor Martin
Starring: Darryl Hinds, Mike "Nug" Nahgang, Dale Boyer, Trevor Martin, Gwynne Phillips, and Andrew Fleming

4 / 5 zedheads

George A. Romero's classic zombie film leaps from the annals of film history and late night B-movie marathons and explodes onto the Toronto stage with fresh new life in the hilarious production NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD LIVE!  

They're still coming to get you, Barbara
Unlike the ghouls of the film, there's nothing brain-dead or lurching about this new production. No, sir! Night of the Living Dead Live is a nimble and hilarious take on the Romero classic that combines hardcore reverence for the original film with energetic, fresh, and funny new ideas. Incredibly respectful of the original material while exploiting the intentionally and unintentionally hilarious aspects of the film that have only grown sillier with time, Night of the Living Dead Live is pure entertainment for both hardcore zombie fans and general audiences alike. It's no wonder that Night of the Living Dead Live received the official seal of approval from George A. Romero himself.

Tom (Andrew Fleming) learns the virtues of proper window boarding
On April 26th, The Zed Word was on hand for the opening night of Night of the Living Dead Live, co-created by Christopher Harrison and Phil Pattison of Nictophobia Films with direction by Christopher Bond (Evil Dead: The Musical). Taking its cues from the original 1968 film, Night of the Living Dead Live is staged completely in monochrome black and white on an ingeniously versatile farm-house interior set. Night of the Living Dead Live is staged in two acts. In the first half, the show adheres to the major movements of the original film with just the right amount of spoof on the side.  It's not until the second act, however, when Night of the Living Dead Live really kicks into high-gear! If you are a fan of zombie movies, then the second act of the show is going to be like some wild fan-boy's dream come true.

Cellar Dweller: Mike "Nug" Nahrgang as Harry Cooper
Populated by Second City improv actors, the cast is spot-on and eerily pitch perfect in the first act. I've been back to see Night of the Living Dead Live a second time, and the cast remains tireless and enthusiastic on stage. Darryl Hinds sounds so much like Duane Jones as Ben it's spooky, while Mike "Nug" Nahgang as Harry and Gwynne Phillips as Barbara give delightfully exaggerated twists on the iconic roles they're gently spoofing. Dale Boyer, who also co-wrote the show, does double-duty as both Helen Cooper and Judy. Her Judy is particularly funny as an extremely self-aware caricature of Judith Riley's original laconic performance. With this impressive cast, Night of the Living Dead Live hits all the key beats and themes of the original film in an easy, breezy whirlwind tour of laughs and a few farcical PG-13 scares.

The production team: (back row): Cannibal Cam Schwarz, Christopher Bond, Christopher Harrison, Phil Pattison, Trevor Martin. (front row): Carlos Henriques, Russ Streiner, John Russo, Dale Boyer
I don't know how many times I've seen the original Night of the Living Dead. It's a classic that has been unceasingly -- and unfairly -- remade, ripped off, and parodied again and again. When I heard several years ago from our friends at Nictophobia Films that they would be mounting a stage adaptation, I was of course excited. But in the back of my mind there was always one nagging question: How do you make a classic like Night of the Living Dead fresh and entertaining on stage? Is there anything new to say about this film? While the first act of Night of the Living Dead Live certainly plays it close to home with some tongue-in-cheek asides, Night of the Living Dead Live soon reveals itself to be more than an adaptation. It's a devout and carefully crafted expansion of the beloved film with heaps of laughs along the way.

Night of the Living Dead Live runs though to May 19th at the Theatre Passe Muraille in Toronto. Get your tickets at nightofthelivingdeadlive.com