October 24, 2019 Radomir Vojtech Luza

Review of The Group Repertory Theatre’s Main Stage Production of George A. Romero’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD

If you are interested in a new adaptation of a classic horror film, make a beaten path to The Group Repertory Theatre’s production of George A. Romero’s 
“Night of the Living Dead,” adapted for the stage by Gus Krieger and running on the Main Stage of The Lonny Chapman Theatre in The North Hollywood Arts District through November 10th.
This is the story of the emergence and spread of a deadly pandemic which engulfs seven strangers attempting to flee the armies of flesh-eating, bloodthirsty zombies ravaging the countryside in a
abandoned Pennsylvania farmhouse.
Beset by the walking dead outside and personal tensions within, the group attempts to survive the longest night of their lives.
Krieger’s adaptation of Romero’s movie intelligently and effectively converts film to theatre in a 75 minute play without an intermission.
In so doing, the play takes on the winning traits and characteristics of the movie such as moving and biting interpersonal relationships, believable and realistic ghouls and a government seemingly powerless to do  
anything about stopping them.  
The plot moves along quickly and efficiently.  The writing, gripping and electric, makes us, the audience, believe that this invasion of zombies could happen today.
The production is more than a feast and smorgasbord for the eyes, it is a philosophical and metaphysical buffet. 
Towards the end of the show, we, the audience, begin to ask ourselves if there is anything more on this planet than the human race?
Where did we come from?
What are we doing here?
The fact that the film and this theatrical remake attempt to answer these time-honored queries can only be interpreted as a thirst for knowledge on the part of
Romero and Krieger.
Director Drina Durazo brilliantly mirrors this film with the theatrical work.
The veteran Group Repertory Theatre director not only understands Romero’s penchant for gruesome and satirical horror films, but Krieger’s eclectic theatrical history 
as a writer and Associate Artistic Director of The Porters of Hellsgate, which will become the first Los Angeles theatre company to produce the complete works of William Shakespeare.
Durazo does not get in the way of the actors and lets them be themselves.
The longtime director moves the action along swiftly without affecting the relationships that develop along the way.
The director of Krieger’s “The Armadillo Necktie” (7 Scenie Awards) understands that the classic horror film deserves an equally riveting theatrical counterpart.
She achieves the goal with wit, imagination and a shot of ghoulish delight.
Durazo assembles a gifted cast that comprehends the difficult yet meaningful conversion of film into play.
Stand outs include:
Kate Faye (Barbara) who almost runs away with the play by giving a convincing turn as the clear headed undead sister of her zombie brother Johnny.
Displaying a deep sensitivity and intelligence, the Porters of Hellsgate resident artist exhibits a artistic knowledge and range belying her age.
Marc Antonio Pritchett (Ben) steals the show with a wise, realistic and almost spiritual portrayal of the undead Ben.
The veteran Theatre of Note and Sacred Fools actor carries the play on his more-than-capable shoulders.
Pritchett’s stage presence and mastery combined with his work as a fight coordinator and musician in the Los Angeles area prove to be a boost to his magical performance.
This critic hopes to see the Shakespearean actor (“Othello,” “Richard III”) on the stages of North Hollywood and Los Angeles again soon.
Furthering the message of the play are Chris Winfield and Durazo’s innovative set design, Douglas Gabrielle’s ingenius lighting design, Angela M. Eads’ comfortable costume design, Julia Hapney’s effective makeup  
design and Kenny Harder’s brilliant sound design.  
In the end, “Night of the Living Dead” succeeds because of, not despite, its power as a new theatrical adaptation.
The marriage of Romero and Krieger not only has horror fans everywhere excited, but theatregoers not familiar with the genre.
Both should be happily surprised and contented with the final product.
The Halloween treat proves once and for all that The Group Repertory Theatre is not afraid of bold risks and sharp turns.
Under the steadying influence of Co-Artistic Directors Larry Eisenberg and Winfield, who are both stepping down at the end of the year after nine miraculous years of service, 
the ensemble has proven that it can produce and cast shows as different, experimental and edgy as this one without a second thought.
One believes in and hopes for at least another decade of dreams delivered and aspirations achieved with new Artistic Director Doug Haverty.
By Radomir Vojtech LuzaTheatre/Film/Book CriticAt the Theatre with Radomir Luza
At the Theatre with Radomir LuzaShowtimes:Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PMSundays at 2 PMSpecial Performances: Wednesday, October 30th andThursday, October 31st at 8 PM.Talk Back after Sunday Matinee on October 27th.Ages 13+
Tickets:General Admission: $25.00Seniors 65+/Students with ID: $20.00Information/Reservations: (818) 763-5990Where: Group Repertory Theatre at Lonny Chapman Theatre at10900 Burbank Boulevard, North Hollywood, CA 91601.

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