Review: “Night of the Living Dead”

Category:  The Arts
Sunday, October 30th, 2016 at 1:40 PM
Review: “Night of the Living Dead” by Anna Ashcraft

A dark, rainy Thursday night set the tone for the ominous feel inside Diebold Center for Performing Arts as lights went black and fog drifted through the air. The night was one of turbulent, gripping performances by the actors, with the feel of an imminent apocalypse ever there.

Barbara (Mary Kate Noonan) began the evening in panic and shock, during the second week of Laugh/Riot’s production of “Night of the Living Dead.” The scene opens with a hysterical Barbara rummaging through a house, while crying and holding a knife. The audience has only a vague idea why she is upset until Ben (Morgan Gore) runs in scared asking if she is one of “them.” This begins the conversation, or Ben talking and Barbara crying, about “zombies.”

The “zombies” are not ever referred to as zombies but as unknown monsters or aliens. Theses unknown creatures multiplied in the background of the set at specific intervals through the duration of the play, while scratching and reaching through windows, and stomping to add effect to the suspenseful atmosphere. It’s hard to tell how many unknown creatures were around at any given time. Towards the end it looked and sounded like the house was surrounded when there are only eight zombie actors total. 

When the audience gets the first glimpse of these monsters they have a white face and look otherworldly in the blue light, while walking slowly and disjointedly. The overall experience was thrilling and intense and kept watchers wondering what the monsters were going to do next. At one point during the plot when Ben said the monsters smashed the truck, one monster scratched and reached through the window with bloody hands, smearing it all over, adding to the effect of the scene.

Barbara (Noonan) began and ended the play. She had a small amount of lines but was a main character throughout the entire play. The raw emotion she showed more than made up for her lack of lines. She was in shock and hysterical the entire time — crying, rocking back and forth and screaming “Johnny” at random intervals —because of the sudden death of her brother by these unknown monsters in the cemetery across the street.

Ben (Gore) was the other main character. His use of body language greatly enhanced his role and the emotion he used convinced audiences of his feelings about the monsters. When Ben got angry, everyone felt it. The fight scenes were so real it brought audience members to the edge of their seats.

When Tom (Richard Kolbosky) and Harry (Ben Robson) come upstairs and find Ben and Barbara, everyone has a different idea of what they need to do to survive. Harry added some counter arguments to the story, with a different view than the rest of the occupants, including his wife — Helen (Abigail Delk) and friend Tom. This caused tension and fighting in the house at a time when it’s crucial to stick together.  

Tom (Kolbosky) became the voice of reason when it came to deciding what to do during the apocalypse. Some people wanted to stay in the house, others wanted to leave to find rescue before it was surrounded. Harry was convinced staying in the basement was the best way of survival for him and his family, and he intended to board up the doors. Everyone else saw it as a trap with no way out.

Harry and Helen were a strong couple and carried a few of the scenes. Harry was a very powerful character  and was almost convincing in his argument, even if it was irrational. However, toward the end he pretty much snapped —and he wasn’t the only one.

The whole time one never forgot the impending apocalypse because of the supporting emotion and continuous action from the entire cast. The use of blue and low lighting set the tone for the play and towards the end it was lit just by candlelight making the suspenseful moments and monster attacks more thrilling.

The audience was kept on their feet the whole time, with action at every turn. Keeping close to the original story—with the addition of some new elements and lines by director J.D. Mizikowski to fit the characters and plot—the play really captured the spirit of Halloween season, while bringing in arguably the largest turn out for Laugh/Riot since last falls performance of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.”

Performances run this weekend Oct. 27-29 at 7:30 p.m. and Oct. 30 at 2:30 p.m. in Diebold Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets are $3 for EU students, $5 for non-EU students, faculty, staff and senior citizens and $10 for general admission. Upcoming Laugh/Riot performances include “Girl Gone” (Dec. 1–11), “Deviant Behavior” (Feb. 16-26), EUP Dramatic Activities presents “Next to Normal” on March 2-12 and “The Trojan Women” April 20 through 30. 

Anna Ashcraft is the features managing editor for The Spectator. 

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