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|October 30-November 5, 2008
Dead and loving it
The Bug brings a horror masterpiece to the stage
by Gary Zeidner
If you’re Ministry, then every day is Halloween, but for the rest of us All Hallows’ Eve comes but once a year, so it’s only natural that people do their darndest to find ways to make the most of it.
As many folks know, Halloween traces its origins back to the Pagan harvest festival. Unlike Christmas, Easter and many other Judeo-Christian holidays that co-opted Pagan holidays in the name of religious progress, Halloween has remained much truer to its roots. The Catholic Church doesn’t claim that Christ got his first boner on Oct. 31 or anything like that. (And thankfully, too. Can you imagine what that celebration would look like?)
The only problem with Halloween’s agelessness is that as we get older it becomes more and more difficult to celebrate. As children, we are allowed, nay, expected, to dress up in silly costumes and canvas our neighborhoods for sack loads of candy. We are permitted some leniency with respect to acts of minor vandalism in the name of “tricks.” But once we pass a certain age, we certainly can’t go trick or treating any longer, and even dressing up is a questionable proposition. (Worse still is that we seem to lose sight of the pure fun tramping about dressed as ghouls or superheroes is supposed to be and, instead, view Halloween as some kind of Best Costume contest.) As most semi-well adjusted adults are wont to do, we grow to see Halloween as another opportunity to drink too much and make asses out of ourselves in public. As this kind of behavior is cliché at best, shouldn’t we be looking for alternative Halloween activities?
The Bug Theatre says, “Yes!” I don’t know if they set out to do it, but the Bug has birthed a potentially stellar change of pace to the standard Halloween bar crawl or house party. Their production of Night of the Living Dead practically begs to become the Front Range’s annual version of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Though this is only the first year the Bug has put this film-to-stage adaptation on, audience members are already showing up in zombie makeup and whooping it up as the Bug sends up one of the best zombie flicks ever. Could talk-backs on par with, “Castles don’t have phones, asshole!” be too far behind?
The production itself is yet another testament to the Bug’s ability to do much more with quite a bit less. Using a combination of live action on stage and recorded footage played periodically on a retractable screen, the Bug brings Romero’s classic improbably to life. This stage version tracks the movie straight through, so all the memorable moments are present. After a Three Stooges-esqe opening bit, the play takes us to the old graveyard where bro and sis are paying their respects when out of nowhere — and quite slowly — lumbers over a perambulatory cadaver. From there, zombies begin to crop up at an alarming rate, and the main characters all find themselves barricaded in an old house under siege by the undead.
As one might expect, rather than trying to recreate the serious tone and the intriguing subtext of the original film, the Bug’s Night of the Living Dead goes for laughs instead and succeeds from start to finish. It is readily apparent that everyone involved is having a great time either as zombie, victim or both. With so much enthusiasm both onstage and in the audience, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Night of the Living Dead return (Hmm. Would that make it Return of the Living Dead?) again next year. Who knows, maybe this show will do for the Bug at Halloween what Santaland Diaries did for it at Christmas?
On the Bill:
Night of the Living Dead plays through Saturday, Nov. 1, at the Bug Theatre, 3654 Navajo in Denver, 303-477-9984, www.bugtheatre.org.
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