In a Halloween season where America’s most popular zombie show, The Walking Dead, just had one of their most devastating, gory episodes of all time, it’s refreshing to find an opportunity to laugh at zombies again.
This season, Bricolage Production Company, has brought the classic horror film, Night of the Living Dead, back to life with a Pittsburgh radio twist. Their immersive approach starts when you walk into the venue– for the Halloween-themed show, the lobby is decked out in spiderwebs and miscellaneous zombie parts. There are a number of silly, spooky games to play while you have a drink and wait for the house to open, including a spot to give your input on who you would eat first if the zombie apocalypse came to Pittsburgh…
This was my first time visiting the Bricolage theater space. It’s intimate, but very casual– the friendly staff makes you feel right at home . The Midnight Radio series is an ongoing favorite that is primarily audio-driven, not requiring a full set and costumes; however, the stage was still decorated in the Halloween spirit. The musicians’ area was decorated like a graveyard, and the actors’ podiums were boarded-up, like something you’d do to doors and windows in the midst of a zombie mob. I’m told this is more visual effort than they normally do– it was a nice mood-setting touch.
The show kicks off with the “n’at” part of things. The actors open with a radio show intro, all using deep Pittsburgh accents that are both extremely accurate and amusing. Then in the fashion of old school radio programs, they proceed to tell the story of Night of the Living Dead as if you were listening at home. For the duration, clips and stills from the movie itself were projected on the back wall while the actors provided voices and sound effects. To me, this was reminiscent of Bad Lip Reading videos, and it was just as funny.
While the voice actors’ talents carried the show, the musical guests, Cello Fury, brought depth and dimension. The bellowing cellos accompanied the voice actors as a musical score for the radio program., adding to the suspense and intensity (and hilarity) of the scenes. Cello Fury also performed a few solo pieces during the production. The only criticism here is that the serious, melancholy songs felt a bit out of place with the rest of the show’s nonsensical comedy. Regardless, it’s very hard to mind the mismatch when you hear Cello Fury play. Their autumnal, eerie sound chills you to the bone, and is absolutely beautiful.
Additional funny bits: audience members can get a slightly cheaper ticket (at $15) and sit on the interactive “zombie porch.” You’ll be equipped with all kinds of props to go bump in the night and make zombie noises to your heart’s content (but on cue, of course). Another highlight was the undead spoof commercials breaking up the radio show: a favorite of mine was for Al Pacino’s latest eau de parfum, “Scent of a Dead Woman.” There was even a themed version of “Family Feud,” inviting audience members onstage for the chance to win prizes. Pittsburghese is injected here and there to keep up the “n’at” vibes. These added bits made everything feel almost more like a variety show– but the laughs were consistent all throughout.
If you’re slightly deterred by the idea of a “mostly-audio” show, don’t be. There’s still so much to watch, from the projected clips to the actors’ incredibly funny expressions, to the slew of props used to make the sound effects (everything from empty tissue boxes to an actual car door). You don’t miss a full set or costumes, and you come to appreciate the true skill in voice acting. This show had us in stitches, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a few folks decided to rise from the dead just to see it.
Night of the Living Dead N’at is playing at Bricolage Production Company’s space dahntahn until November 12th. Special thanks to Bricolage for complimentary press tickets.
Photos courtesy of Bricolage Production Company and Claire Juozitis.