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Zombie Apocalypse

The cast has a ball dubbing in zonked-out lines to the thudding earnestness of the George Romero movie.

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Bricolage Theatre is throwing a big ol' party with the latest, and last, installment of this year's Midnight Radio series: Zombie Apocalypse. Presented as a staged live radio program, Zombie is a hootenanny of comedy and mayhem.

The bulk of the evening is Tami Dixon's adaptation of Night of the Living Dead: Parts of the movie are projected silently, with actors providing dialogue and sound effects and musicians adding a soundtrack.

This is, by far, the funniest part of the evening. Like a home-grown version of Woody Allen's What's Up, Tiger Lily?, the cast has a ball dubbing in zonked-out lines to the thudding earnestness of the George Romero movie.

In between the film sequences, the company adds commercials, a news broadcast and other radio bits. This material -- written by Gayle Pazerski, Brad Stephenson and Angela Vesco -- is at times fun and funny, but lacks the inspired insanity of the film segments.

There's also an incredible performance by the local cello trio, Cello Fury, playing with enough murderous brio to shame Bernard Herrmann.

Like some parties, Zombie Apocalypse seems to run out of steam before the end. The issue, I think, is that outside of walking slow and eating flesh, zombies really don't have much comic potential -- and whatever jokes are to be made are made early and then often.

Two side notes. I loved the Pittsburgh-dialect parody, but didn't anyone involved know that "yinz" is the plural "you" and never the singular? For shame!

And speaking of shame: Maybe the extended nelly-fag-joke sketch is best left back in a '60s sitcom.

In addition to Cello Fury and music director Sam McUmber, I gleefully salute the slick direction of Jeffrey Carpenter, who keeps this circus act on point. And big applause to the protean talents of this cast: Dixon, Vesco, Wali Jamal, Jason McCune and Jonathan Visser.

And finally, Zombie Apocalypse provides what should be a mandatory element of every theatrical enterprise: a showcase for the sidesplitting and bottomless comedic ability of Sheila McKenna. Nothing in this world if funnier than McKenna firing on all cylinders, which she does here without cease. She's a triumph.

 

ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE continues through Nov. 19. 937 Liberty Ave., Downtown. 412-471-0999 or www.webbricolage.org

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