Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Review - Brew of the Dead (Horse Trade Theatre Group and Dysfunctional Theatre Company)

Review by Byrne Harrison

You've studied Romero and Raimi. You've watched Shaun of the Dead and 28 Days Later. Maybe you've even sung along to Zombie Prom and Evil Dead: The Musical. But will you survive the Zombie Apocalypse? And if so, are you going to be able to come up with some cool one-liners to use while you fight off legions of the walking dead?

Sadly, the answer is probably no. (For some good examples click here)

Luckily, playwright Patrick Storck has provided us with a handful of plucky survivors who, armed with a small cache of weapons and a staggering knowledge of zombie lore (heavy on the pop culture), flee Pittsburgh and decide to hole up in the Latrobe brewery. After all, if you're going to wait out the Zombie Apocalypse, you might as well have a nice buzz. Along the way, one of them gets bitten, and rather than giving up, he decides to drink the infection away (assuming it is an infection).

Brew of the Dead doesn't get much more complex than that, but that's fine. It's really about the jokes, adrenaline, and five people who probably wouldn't hang out together except for that whole zombie thing. Think of The Breakfast Club as directed by George Romero. The zombies in Brew of the Dead are rarely seen, but they are the subject of endless debate. Why do they eat brains? Why do they eat at all since they're dead? Is a chainsaw really a useful weapon, or did it just look cool in the Evil Dead movies? While most of these questions are never answered, they do allow for some great quips, one-liners and sarcastic banter.

The best lines of the evening tend to come from Craig (Peter Schuyler), a shaggy-looking drunk who nearly becomes zombie chow. He's the first to articulate what most of the others are thinking; even though they've seen death, un-death, and destruction, they're actually having a hell of a time. Each of them is suddenly out of his routine and boring life, and using skills they didn't know they had. Nerdy Kim (Amy Overman) is the organizer of the group. She knows where each gun and machete is and how much food they need to scavenge. Derek (Tom O'Connor) is the voice of reason; he sees the potential dangers and tries to avoid them. Nexus (Amy Beth Sherman) is the kick-ass Goth girl. Matt (Eric Chase) and Craig (Peter Schuyler) are slackers who probably watched every zombie movie in college and suddenly find themselves oddly prepared for the end of the world. Despite the circumstances, the characters seem to be having a pretty good time and that gives the talented cast plenty of material to play with.

Brew of the Dead provides more laughs than chills, though the last minutes of the play provide some nice scary moments, showing that director Justin Plowman can do horror just as well as he does comedy. It is just the thing for a night out with friends, especially as Halloween approaches. Since the theatre (Under St. Marks) sells beer and cider, there's no reason not to crack open a cold one and drink along with the cast. After all, you never know when the zombies will attack.

Written by Patrick Storck
Directed by Justin Plowman
Assistant Director: Rob Brown
Producer: Amy Overman
Associate Producer: Peter Schuyler
Original Show Graphics & Postcard Design: J.L. Soto
Additional Graphics Designer: Cory Plowman
Lighting & Sound Designer: Justin Plowman

Featuring: Eric Chase (Matt), Tom O’Connor (Derek), Amy Overman (Kim), Peter Schuyler (Craig), Amy Beth Sherman (Nexus)

UNDER St. Marks
94 St. Marks Place

October 3, 4, 11, 18, 25 and November 1 at 10:30 PM

Tickets: Smarttix (212-868-4444) or www.horsetrade.info