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Light thrill, big fun

Kari Goetz, as Barbra, fights the undead in Jobsite Theater’s Night of the Living Dead at Shimberg Playhouse.

Photo courtesy of Dave Pritchard

Kari Goetz, as Barbra, fights the undead in Jobsite Theater’s Night of the Living Dead at Shimberg Playhouse.

TAMPA

W ay back when in '67, George Romero's Night of the Living Dead introduced a new kind of horror movie, more explicit and more intelligent than almost anything the genre had shown before.

There were even some sociological subtexts to the film. One central character was a young black man who took charge in crisis, and gave orders to white people, some of whom actually deferred to him. In a film of that era, that was perhaps more shocking than the sight of zombies graphically eating human entrails. (Roger Ebert, in his original review of the film, repeatedly referred to that character as "the Negro.")

Jobsite Theater's production of Night of the Living Dead (adapted for the stage by playwright Lori Allen Ohm) wisely recognizes that the things that shocked us then won't shock us now. Though the stage version is faithful, it's also lighthearted. The story is still compelling, and not without chilling moments.

Basically, the plot involves a group of people — a family and two strangers — who take shelter in a vacant house after a nuclear mishap causes dead people to reawaken and seek out human flesh.

Director Chris Holcom sets just the right tone. He has fun with the material without letting it descend into campiness.

Some of the acting is really good, and some of it merely okay. But none of it's bad. Even though her character cowers in silent wide-eyed shock through most of the play, Kari Goetz is fun to watch as Barbra, and Jason Vaughan Evans and Caroline Jett are strong in smaller roles. He's the local sheriff and she's the mother who's holed up in the house.

Katrina Stevenson's costumes — mostly those of the legion of undead — are also very cool, and the makeup and other special effects (including blood and guts that are fairly believable but not disgusting) by Danny McCarthy are impeccable.

On the way out of the theater, the opening-night audience was asked to keep the ending a secret. That apparently refers to a tacked-on segment that has nothing to do with the story. It's a fun bit to watch, but for Jobsite to imagine that's it's a big surprise is odd. In fact, it's far too predictable. Still, it's a harmless capper to a slight but thoroughly enjoyable show.

IF YOU GO

Night of the Living Dead

The play runs through Nov. 15 in the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center's Shimberg Playhouse. 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 4 p.m. Sunday. $24.50 plus service charge. (813) 229-7827 or tbpac.org.

Light thrill, big fun 10/23/09 [Last modified: Friday, October 23, 2009 10:46pm]

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