Friday, June 15, 2007

Living Dead in Denmark - June 14, 2007

Qui Nguyen's tremendously funny Living Dead in Denmark, part of the Vampire Cowboys Trilogy is being revived (as zombies tend to be) and presented as part of the First National Asian American Theater Festival. I was thrilled to have an opportunity to see this witty, hilarious play again.

Sometimes when people hear "Shakespeare" they turn away - "I'll never understand it" or "I hated it in high school". But Nguyen shows exactly how much fun Shakespeare really is: no, this is no iambic pentameter-heavy attempt to re-create the wheel. What it IS is a retake on some of Shakespeare's best-known characters and settings, a retake that involves toxic waste and zombies. May not sound like it could work, but it does - perfectly. Nguyen starts with time-tested characters and puts them into a post-apocalyptic, zombie-infested world and shakes it all together with some geek humor, perfect placement of classic lines of Shakespeare (that almost everyone will recognize), some ninja fighting, pop culture references and comes out with total genius.
Of course the writing is amazingly clever, but much credit must also be doled out to great direction by Robert Ross Parker, terrifically stylized fight sequences by Marius Hanford and understated production design by Nick Francone and hilarious zombie & gore effects by Chuck Varga. None of this would work nearly so well without this great cast. Some taking on more than one role, all of them pitch perfect. For the most part it is tongue in cheek funny, but there are moments of real pathos as well - just enough to let you know you are watching something that was created with much thought and love, not just a goof-fest. The scene with Laertes who is portrayed by a puppet (design by David Valentine - and gorgeous) voiced by Carlo Alban is utterly heart-breaking.

I could write volumes about each actor and how fully they inhabit their characters in this wonderfully dark and funny world, but that could take weeks. Each of them is a standout - which is quite a cool thing to pull off in a show that works as total ensemble.
This is the essence of exciting new theater. The Vampire Cowboys Theatre Company is a group of hard-working, TALENTED, people who make lively, fun theater on a very tight budget. But they prove at every show that you don't need piles of cash (just tons of talent) to make good theater. Though I'm sure they wouldn't say no to piles of cash. If anyone is interested in helping that cause you can see their website for details - it's tax deductible. I'm anxiously awaiting their next show - I have no doubt it too will be a killer.

Living Dead in Denmark
Beckett Theatre
410 West 42nd Street
New York, NY 10036
Tickets: 212-352-3101
866-811-4111 (Toll Free)
June 12th - June 15th
Running time: 90 minutes (no intermission)

Featuring the amazing cast: Carlo Alban (Horatio, Laertes), Alexis Black (Juliet), Jason Liebman (The Ghost/Hamlet), Maggie Macdonald (Puck, Witch), Tom Myers (Caliban, Guildenstern, Witch), Melissa Paladino (Lady Macbeth), Jason Schumacher (Fortinbras), Andrea Marie Smith (Titania), Temar Underwood (Gravedigger, Rosencrantz, Witch, Oberon), Amy Kim Waschke (Ophelia).

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