12th Night of the Living Dead
October 31, 2007
By A.J. Mell
What could be more natural than the fusion of Shakespeare's cross-dressing romantic comedy with George Romero's remorseless 1968 zombie classic? Practically everything, of course — but it should be remembered that the subtitle of Twelfth Night is "What You Will," suggesting a somewhat casual, what-the-hell attitude on the part of the Bard. I suspect that Shakespeare, who was not averse to the occasional gory spectacle, might have enjoyed watching the appropriately named Impetuous Theater Group reconfigure his Candlemas confection into a Halloween-appropriate exercise in slapstick Grand Guignol.
Company member Brian MacInnis Smallwood — a name eminently worthy of Shakespearean comedy — wrote the adaptation, and it's easy to assume that he started out with the funny-as-hell title and then concocted this agreeably messy travesty to justify it. The dialogue sticks closely to the original, though this version includes the radioactive meteorite that Shakespeare inexplicably left out. The giant space rock transforms the love-besotted denizens of Illyria into squeaking, gibbering, flesh-eating ghouls who end up feasting on Sir Toby Belch's not inconsiderable guts.
In truth, the conceit is probably more appropriate to sketch comedy; one thinks of such high-concept Saturday Night Live bits as "Medieval Barber" and "Samurai Delicatessen," which traded on similar absurd incongruities. Smallwood and director John Hurley have whittled the play down to a little over an hour, and while that's almost long enough for the concept to wear out its welcome, the cast chews the scenery (and assorted body parts) with such gusto that we don't begrudge the essential thinness of the premise.
Patrons are urged to steer clear of the front row if they want to avoid being sprayed with viscera.
Presented by Impetuous Theater Group at the Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural Center's La Tea Theater, 107 Suffolk St., 2nd floor, NYC.
Oct. 25-Nov. 10. Wed.-Fri. at 8 p.m.; Sat., 7 and 9:30 p.m.
(800) 838-3006 or www.brownpapertickets.com.