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Among the many very smart choices director/designer R. Brian Noffke made in adapting the zombie groundbreaker "Night of the Living Dead" to the stage, the smartest was to have his actors take their characters' plight very seriously.
That's not to say that the evening spent with the living dead at the Indy Fringe Building isn't fun. It's loads of fun.
But it's fun in large part because a group of very committed actors don't break for romance, they don't break for song, they don't break to wink at the audience and they never for a minute seem to forget that there are a growing number of unexplained, shuffling creatures outstide who want nothing more than to eat them.
Sam Fein, Mick Seldon, and Lisa Ermel–whose faces, if not all their names, may be famliar from local stages–each give the kind of performances that, at the movies, bring to life screenplay cardboard. (No, this is not a brilliant play. But does anyone want a brilliant zombie play?)
Second among the smart choices made by Noffke was to show fairly early on how bloody crazy gory violent the show can be–and then to hold back so that otherwise uneventful dialogue-heavy scenes become packed with suspense. It's those "don't open the door" moments that help balance gore with goosebumps.
Noffke also wisely uses the IndyFringe Building space, resetting the story in an abandoned church. The environmental staging, accented by effective lighting and just enough cheesy music, let audiences know from the beginning that they are in good hands. Even if those hands may, without warning, be ripped from their arms.
"Night of the Living Dead" ends its limited run with two shows on Oct. 22, at 9:30 and midnight. Call now if you want seats.