Review: George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead Live (Nictophobia Films)

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Just in time for Halloween is George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead Live – a hilarious and well-done take on a classic horror film playing at Toronto’s Theatre Passe Muraille

George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead Live is a humorous theatrical take on the classic horror film Night of the Living Dead. The show examines the movie itself, the time period in which it was produced (the 60s), and the film’s influence on the horror genre.

For those who haven’t seen the film, Night of the Living Dead follows eight people from a variety of backgrounds on a terrifying night where the dead rise to feast on human flesh. The strangers end up fighting for their lives in an abandoned house surrounded by zombies. The situation escalates as tensions rise and fear and prejudice take over. The entire plot of the film is act one of the play.

The second act of George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead Live is where things differ. The show begins to play through various scenarios: What if the women were in charge? What if they had a typical American presidential figure? What if they had just locked themselves away in the cellar?

The show is presented as the film is – in black and white: the set, the costumes, and yes, the actors are various shades of black, white and grey. It worked wonderfully (although, any accidental spot of colour was immediately noticeable). I have also never seen the space used so well (I find that everything I’ve seen in the Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace doesn’t take advantage of the height). Every inch of the space was used to full effect, and it was fantastic.

The show is hilarious. It pokes fun at its predecessor’s ineffectual women, 1960s race relations and even the show itself (Dale Boyer plays two of the three women in the show – and there are plenty of “I can’t be in two places at once!” jokes as a result).

While unlikely to happen at the performance you see, I feel I need to comment on the goings on opening night. Towards the beginning of act two, their lighting board died. That means no lights. The cast and crew handled this amazingly well. We ended up getting a mid-show Q & A with the cast, Russ Streiner and John A. Russo, the producer and writer of the original film – lit entirely by audience cell phone. When it became apparent that the lights were not going to come back on, the show was completed by cell phone and house lights. Not one audience member left.

I highly recommend George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead Live. It’s a hilarious and well-done take on the classic horror film. Perfect Halloween viewing.

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