“12th Night of the Living Dead” – Stray Cat Theatre

This review aired on KBAQ April 19, 2010


Stray Cat Theatre
Tempe, AZ

If you like fractured Shakespeare, lots of stage blood and irreverence, fast paced comedy shenanigans, and ridiculous silliness, Stray Cat Theatre’s “12th Night of the Living Dead” will delight. If you prefer “Twelfth Night” in a more standard staging and if zombies resulting from a bizarre meteor strike don’t amuse, this wacky and bizarre production is best avoided.

Stray Cat has never done conventional Shakespeare since those plays don’t fit into their usual repertory. “12th Night of the Living Dead’s” different take on “Twelfth Night,” as adapted by Brian MacInnis Smallwood, is probably as close to the Bard as this company will ever come.

As in “Twelfth Night,” the play opens in Illyria but shortly after a meteor strikes the planet turning the characters into whacked-out zombies who adore the blood that drips constantly from their mouths as they revel in pulling out and eating various body parts of other characters.

The basic Shakespeare romance remains but everything takes strange twists and turns as characters gobble each other, deaths come fast and furiously, and malarkey and mayhem cloud the familiar story. A warning. Don’t sit in the front three rows unless you are garbed in plastic for stage blood flies everywhere. Telling more of the unusually told story would spoil the madness.

The Stray Cat production is staged with comedic flourish and instilled with rapid fire pacing by director Cale Epps. The brilliantly acted production is executed with jesting farcical wit by the accomplished cast who get the zany and chaotic nonsense necessary to make this weird retelling work. The opening night audience laughed hysterically but the treatment mocks one of the Bard’s finest comedies.

Benjamin Burt’s mischievously malevolent Malvolio coupled with Nathaniel Dobson’s sinister but charmingly eccentric Sir Andrew Aguecheek are tops, while Ryan Nelson’s Orsino, Mary Spence’s Olivia, and Valerie Vasilas’ Viola bring huge laughs to these normally conventional characters.

The production boasts some funny but clever fight sequences, an elaborate unit set, strangely contemporary costumes, and impishly murky lighting that enhance the production’s comic zaniness.

“12th Night of the Living Dead” will delight those theatergoers who relish and crave over-the-top humor but the weirdly bizarre mischief will not be to everyone’s taste. “12th Night of the Living Dead” continues through May 8. For tickets, call the Stray Cat Theatre box office at 480-820-8022 or go online at www.straycattheatre.org.

Grade: C