What could have been more appropriate than to venture out into a cold, dark and rainy night to see The Night of the Living Dead, Part 1, a play about a group of hapless victims in a church hiding out from a gang of roaming zombies stalking them?
IndyFringe theater (located in a former house of worship) off Massachusetts Avenue in downtown Indianapolis is an ideal setting for this adaptation of the 1968 George Romero cult classic film, Night of the Living Dead.
Presented by Acting Up Productions (the brainchild of artistic director R. Brian Noffke and business director Elizabeth Hofmann), the Night of the Living Dead. directed by Noffke, runs through Saturday, Oct. 22.
The first of a planned three-part series of zombie plays, this installment features a cast that includes Chelsea Anderson, Sam Fain, Michael Shelton, Lisa Ermel, Georgeanna Smith, Noffke and others, as well as a large group of extras who play zombies.
Fain plays Ben, the chief organizer of the zombie resistance movement. He gave a strong performance as a hero who is steadfast in his resolve and remains calm when others around him are falling apart.
Michael Shelton is equally effective as Tom Bitner, another of this group who takes refuge in a church to escape the zombies that have them surrounded. Shelton and Ermel, who plays his girlfriend Judy Rose, were moving in a scene together during which their characters reassure one another in a quiet moment alone.
Noffke as the self-centered and generally obnoxious Harry Cooper, who thwarts his fellow survivors at every turn, also turns out a fine performance. Complementing his solid characterization is that of Smith, who played his wife, Helen.
Problems related to pacing, timing and some technical glitches have no doubt been solved since opening night. One in particular was related to sound levels for videos that are projected on a wall of the theatre.
Overall however, the show’s technical production does a nice job of living up to its B-movie ancestor – particularly in the areas of props, make-up, score and special effects.
Upon entering the theater, one couldn’t help but notice that much of its interior was covered in plastic. There’s a reason for that. Without giving away too much, it is strongly suggested that you wear raingear if you plan to sit close to the action, which takes place mainly in the center of the show’s arena stage configuration.
Speaking of special effects, there are lots of surprises in the show, and some are clearly not for the faint of heart. Designed to scare you out of your wits, The Night of the Living Dead does so effectively, yet it manages to do so in a lighthearted way – giving it a charm that makes this purely theatrical experience all that much more entertaining.
For tickets and information, call (317) 373-5390 or visit www.livingdeadlive.com.