Brew of the Dead brings theater to the bar hopping masses.
Reviewed by Adrienne Urbanski
[See also: Aaron Riccio's review.]
With a plot and title that boast the promise of zombies and beer, a late night time slot, inexpensive ticket price, and constant encouragement to drink through the play, Brew of the Dead succeeds in making theater appealing to those who would rather spend their evenings at a bar than a theater. While in the past zombies have been used for social commentary and apt parody, beneath the enticing gimmick lies little else.
Brew of the Dead's plot is virtually indistinguishable from any standard zombie B-movie (the world is mysteriously overtaken by zombies, leaving a few survivors to hole up together and plan their next strategy). The new twist is the emphasis on beer: while the survivors of Dawn of the Dead sought shelter in a mall, our gang heads toward an abandoned brewery. As Dawn of the Dead equates zombieism with consumerism, Brew of the Dead equates zombieism with alcohol, but unlike its more socially aware predecessors, Brew of the Dead just wants to have a good time, beer in hand.
The zombies themselves remain off stage, seen only by the cast, which inhibits the play from reaching the level of parody and schlock so well displayed in Shaun of the Dead (one of its self-proclaimed influences.) Without seeing the threat, there’s no way to gauge whether it is serious or laughable: the actors remain straight-faced, never quite indulging in full-on irony or parody, with the exception of Craig (Peter Schyuler, who also serves as associate producer), the over-the-top, wise cracking drunk.
The cleverest moments center around a series of pre-show public service announcements (P.S.A.’s), which humorously tell the tale of those who were not fortunate enough to make it out alive: a girl who seeks to investigate a strange noise in her hallway, armed only with a whisk; an extreme vegan who wears homemade sneakers that are impossible to run in. Also included are zombie-themed newscasts and a "Mentos, the Fleshmaker” ad, which add breadth and humor to the work.
Those little touches are important because, staying true to its cinematic predecessors, the characters of Brew of the Dead are highly underdeveloped: their backstories are the P.S.A. videos. There’s the aforementioned drunk, Craig, and then Nexus (Amy Beth Sherman), a tough Goth girl; Kim (Amy Overman), a chipper honor-society square; Roger (Eric Chase) a jovial nice guy; and Derek (Tom O’Connor), a silver-haired college professor who seems to know it all.
However, beneath all the flash and atmosphere, the plot is thin: there’s a scene before the brewery and one within it, making the 80 minutes feel short and limited. Ultimately, Brew of the Dead is nothing more than a welcome detour for the bar-hopping Lower East Side crowd, but with a beer in one hand, the play is a good time, flaws and all.
Brew of the Dead (55min., no intermission)
Under St. Marks (94 St. Mark's Place)
Tickets (212-868-4444): $15.00
Performances: 10/11, 10/18, 10/25, 11/1 @ 10:30
According to Lincoln Center's new LCT3 project at its slogan, it takes "New Audiences for New Artists." It also takes new critics, hence the establishment of Theater Talk's New Theater Corps in 2005, a way for up-and-coming theater writers and eager new theatergoers to get exposure to the ever-growing theater scene in New York City. Writers for the New Theater Corps are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the off-off and off-Broadway theater scene, learning and giving back high-quality reviews at the same time. Driven by a passion and love of the arts, the New Theater Corps aims to identify, support, and grow the arts community, one show and one person at a time.