‘Night of the Living Dead’ at Reisterstown Theatre Project by Amanda Gunther

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Warning! Extreme levels of radiation have caused dead tissue to reanimate and come back to life! A zombie outbreak is eminent and the safest course of action is to make your way to the Reisterstown Theatre Project’s production of Night of the Living Dead. Directed by Kat McKerrow this scream of an old school thriller might just give you the fright of your life!

Joshua McKerrow. Photo by Joshua McKerrow.

It’s not just a show, but an atmospheric haunt as you pull into the parking lot of Franklin Middle School. Already the zombies are out; lurking about the parking lot and hanging about the entrance to ensure you make it inside. No guarantee on making it back to your car, however. The climb up the stairs and through the darkened corridor will set your teeth on edge just like a haunted house and wait until you trudge through the darkness to get to the auditorium — which is also left in darkness until the show begins. With haunting sound designs from Zombie Wrangler Lynn Graham the pre-show event is in and of itself a mini show of mild fright.

Following George Romero’s original film, Lori Allen Ohm has adapted the zombie thriller to the stage and compacted it into one act of terrifying yet campy fun for all. Director Kat McKerrow combines elements of the haunted house effect as well as video projection feeds to enhance the experience. When those trapped in the house trying to avoid the zombie invasion watch a news broadcast on the old rabbit-ear tube, a projection screen is drawn and the audience is able to see in full-scale black and white, along with appropriately placed fuzz-outs and white noise— exactly what the cast is seeing. And at times the severity and seriousness of those on the camera is quite frightening.

The Zombies of RTP’s ‘Night of the Living Dead’. Photo by Joshua McKerrow.
Night1- The Zombies of RTP’s Night of the Living Dead

There is some violence, mainly zombie attacks, gunshots and the eating of humans, so the show may not be suitable for the particularly young, but overall there is nothing graphic or gory. The problem with the production lies in their sound projection — an easily fixable issue that would make the haunt much more enjoyable. Barbara (Lauren DeSha) the original person to spot the zombies, has a blood-curdling scream. Which for this sort of production is good, but her voice is so powerful that as it echoes inside the large auditorium hall the sound is deafening almost to the point of unbearable. The video and radio projections heard throughout the piece are equally as loud, hurting your ears to hear them. A simple adjustment of the volume could make this problem vanish like the humans in this show.

The zombies are pretty epic in their shuffling and while their makeup may not be Hollywood FX, there is something to be said for these low-budget hellions — each one never breaking character and becoming more intensely creepy as the show progresses. One of the scariest zombies is the little dead girl that rises from the staircase, Shelby Hylton. The way her makeup is painted combined with her death-rattle shuffle, and the desperation for human flesh burning in her eyes — makes her one scary undead girl!

As far as the acting goes its campy, corny, and downright phony-baloney, but this fits perfectly as an homage to the original 1968 film, where horror was overdone to the point of hysterics. The rebel with the gun, Ben (Raphael Shaw) lives up to his rifle-toting persona, slightly edgy, crazy and ready to shoot just about anything that moves. The spastic mother, Helen Cooper (Deb Carson) provides a few zingers thrown in the general direction of her husband Harry (Hugh Carson) which create for the awkward levity needed in the horror play. Deb Carson has the best zombification upon being turned, really jerking about in her movements and making a spectacle of her zombie self.

The whole show runs under an hour and is a great thrilling treat for the Halloween season!

Harry Cooper (foreground – Hugh Carson) and Ben (background – Raphael Shaw) fending off a slue of incoming undead. Photo by  Raphael Shaw).

Running Time: 50 minutes no intermission.

Night of the Living Dead plays through November 10, 2012 at Franklin Middle School located at the intersection of Main Street and Cockeys Mill Road, in Reisterstown, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (443) 226-6401.

For a sneak peak at the zombie outbreak click here.

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Amanda Gunther is an actress, a writer, and loves the theatre. She graduated with her BFA in acting from the University of Maryland Baltimore County and spent two years studying abroad in Sydney, Australia at the University of New South Wales. Her time spent in Sydney taught her a lot about the performing arts, from Improv Comedy to performance art drama done completely in the dark. She loves theatre of all kinds, but loves musicals the best. When she’s not working, if she’s not at the theatre, you can usually find her reading a book, working on ideas for her own books, or just relaxing and taking in the sights and sounds of her Baltimore hometown. She loves to travel, exploring new venues for performing arts and other leisurely activities. Writing for the DCMetroTheaterArts as a Senior Writer gives her a chance to pursue her passion of the theatre and will broaden her horizons in the writer’s field.