Night of the Living Dead: The Play | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Night of the Living Dead: The Play

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NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD: THE PLAY, Who Threw That Ham Productions, at Red Bones Theatre. It all started so innocently, with transcripts of The Brady Bunch performed by a cast of inspired comic actors. But now the imitators have imitators, and what started as a charming way to satirize beloved TV shows and movies has become a quick and dirty way to toss a show onto the boards and (maybe) haul in an audience.

Who Threw That Ham Productions' Night of the Living Dead: The Play, Keith Tadrowski's too-literal translation of George Romero's 1968 cult flick to the stage, neither re-creates the claustrophobic menace of the original nor exaggerates its many eccentricities: the flat, amateurish acting; the preposterous dialogue; the ham-fisted social commentary of having a black hero and white heroine. Instead Tadrowski and director Ed Basden serve up an oddly undramatic play, not really very scary because it goes for the obvious gross-out laughs (the living dead feasting on raw meat) and not really very funny because the cast so successfully captures the solemn, depressive mood of the original.

There are some talented comic actors here--notably Mat McGinnis, who's at once funny and believable as the story's hero. And the impulse to transform this film into camp comedy is a good one, as Sean Abley and Amy Seeley showed when they used Night of the Living Dead in the Factory Theater's hilarious Attack of the Killer B's. But a stage version needs much more finessing, more heightening of the original, than Tadrowski and Basden have given this.

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