By Michael “Buzz” Buzzelli, ‘Burgh Vivant
Midnight Radio returns for its eighth season with “Night of the Living Dead N’at,” a very Pittsburgh take on a very Pittsburgh movie. Like all Midnight Radio shows, the performers are actors and Foley artists, each playing several different characters and making sound effects.
Each Midnight Radio show tells a familiar story with a twist. “Night of the Living Dead N’at” is a spooky, yet humorous take on the nearly fifty-year old film, “Night of the Living Dead,” with scenes from the movie played on a big screen behind the actors. Take “Mystery Science Theater 3000” and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and blend vigorously. The show is peppers in some quintessential Midnight Radio bits, including parody commercials, Mad Libs and some audience participation. There is even a musical guest. On opening night, Cello Fury, comprised of Simon Cummings, Ben Munoz and Nicole Myers, performed.
Actors (or, if you prefer, vocal artists) Jason McCune, Sheila McKenna, Wali Jamal, Sean Sears play a variety of characters. Barbara (McKenna) and Jonathan (Sears) are visiting their father’s grave when they are mysteriously attacked by an old dude shuffling around in his Sunday best. Barbara escapes and holes up in an allegedly abandoned home. She meets Ben (Jamal) who begins boarding up the house. Soon, they discover that there are survivors hiding in the basement. Barbara never recovers from losing her brother to the horde or monsters.
As the living dead descend on the farmhouse, tensions rise inside. Harry (McCune), one of the basement dwellers, is so paralyzed with fear he becomes disruptive, combative and almost gets the whole gang killed. In the film, Harry has a particularly long and dragged out death scene, where he is supposed to fall down the stairs, but he stumbles carefully to the bottom after being shot. McCune milks the scene for extra laughs. It’s hilarious to watch it play out on screen and listen to McCune fill in the details.
The whole cast is “spook-tacular.” McCune, McKenna, Jamal and Sears are all vocal acrobats. McKenna does a fabulous Yinzer accent. At one point, Sears plays a deputy sheriff who sounds exactly like Norville “Shaggy” Rogers from Scooby-Doo. Zoinks!
Tami Dixon, who adapted and directed “Night of the Living Dead N’at,” excels at mining the original film for laughs. She pokes fun at all the holes in the plot and paves over a bunch with additional jokes. It’s not just a silly farce. Dixon’s wit is sly and her tongue is firmly planted in her cheek, but “Night” has brains (you may groan here).
The show is well-paced with an interactive intermission, where two members of the audience play a Halloween themed version of “Family Feud.”
Music Director Deana Muro and Stage Manager Wendy Vandergrift keep things moving.
It shouldn’t be a spoiler, but if you haven’t seen the iconic Pittsburgh film, skip this paragraph:
The movie ends on a particularly sour note. It’s fine for the film, but doesn’t work well for this version of the radio play. After an evening of side-splitting humor, Ben’s death is a bummer of an ending. There’s even a moment to make a bold, political statement. Nearly fifty years ago, this movie ends with a black man getting shot by the police. It seems just as socially relevant today. The final moment seems wasted in some way. Maybe it was intentional. After laughing about death and destruction, a moment of reflection might be required.
Spoiler free version resumes here:
This show is highly recommended, especially for your friendly neighborhood horror fanatics. It’s the perfect show for the season. Yin’zer in for a rill treat.
“Night of the Living Dead N’at” runs from October 27 till November 12 at the Bricolage, 937 Liberty Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. For more information, click here.