It's been forty years since George Romero, a former industrial filmmaker from Pittsburgh, shook up the horror genre with his remorseless low-budget zombiefest Night of the Living Dead. Three sequels, innumerable parodies, and reams of critical dissection later, it's not clear there's anything left to say about Romero's cannibalistic middle-American ghouls. The Dysfunctional Theatre Company's comic riff on the Dead films has a few good laughs and a certain offhand charm, but like most Romero takeoffs, it lacks the mordant wit and sneaky social commentary of the genuine article.
Five Pittsburghers find themselves hiding from the ghouls in a remote country house and they are the most blase group of zombie killers imaginable. They've seen all the movies; they know the routine. The scant story concerns the group's effort to move from the cabin to a safer neighboring brewery. When stocky, beer-lovin' Craig (Peter Schuyler) suffers a zombie bite en route, he tests the proposition that excessive alcohol consumption can ward off its dire effects.
Patrick Storck's somewhat limp script has its fair share of amusing lines. Likewise, the game cast and Justin Plowman's low-key direction create an affable, smart-stupid ambience that may work for you if you're in the right mood, or if you have consumed one or more of the superlative beers available at Under St. Marks.
For me, the real letdown was the paucity of zombie action. Given the source material, the audience has every right to expect marauding blue-skinned ghouls, and plenty of 'em. But apart from a brief, strobe-lit, and abrupt coda, said ghouls are nowhere to be found. Too much of the proceedings resemble the talky middle section of Night of the Living Dead, where the protagonists bicker endlessly about whether to hide in the cellar.
Presented by Horse Trade and Dysfunctional Theatre Company
at Under St. Marks, 94 St. Marks Place, NYC.
Oct. 3-Nov. 1. Sat., 10:30 p.m.
(212) 868-4444 or www.horsetradeinfo.com.