Living Dead in Denmark, HomeGrown Theater’s latest production, debuted at the Red Room nearly half an hour past its scheduled start time Jan. 17. Latecomers trickled in, filling the venue’s tables and leaving only a few empty seats near the stage. When the lights dimmed to reveal the opening scene—leading lady Ophelia struggling to escape the “pit of suck” that is death—the restless audience learned quickly that the show was worth waiting for.
The horror comedy by New York playwright Qui Nguyen is described by local director Chad Shohet as a "kind of sequel to Hamlet.” Newly resurrected and oh-so-innocent Ophelia teams up with schoolgirl Juliet and steampunk Lady Macbeth on a mission to kill all zombies. They are later joined by the hunky Horatio. Kung fu, gunfighting and ninja-zombie-slaying antics ensue.
Nearly every scene contains a rock-music-fueled fight to the death, from which the heroines narrowly escape. The nonstop action is coupled with frequent and dirty vagina jokes and a sordid love affair between Juliet and Lady Macbeth that begins during an angsty, moonlit chat.
The hilarity continues in the play’s satirical use of some of Shakespeare’s most famous lines, like when, following a long sword battle, Hamlet dramatically thrusts his weapon through Horatio’s heart, proclaiming, “Flights of angels sing thee to thy rest … bitch.”
Living Dead in Denmark features a smart cast of local actors, including Erin Chancer as Ophelia, Edie Grace Dull as Juliet, Christy Rolfe as Lady Macbeth and Declan Kemp as the zombie king. The stage is set by a projection screen that creates scenes that parody classic video games, while providing enough splattering virtual blood to turn a sensitive stomach.
The costumes are low-budget in awesome ways, copying looks from the likes of Lady Gaga and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ Shredder. Characters take the stage dressed in spray-painted onesies and necklaces made of decapitated dolls’ heads.
By the play’s end, an increasingly blood-spattered Ophelia becomes a hero, but that isn’t what makes Living Dead in Denmark so great. Theater gets a bad rap for being stuffy—the entertainment vehicle of the olden days. But the cast and crew of Living Dead in Denmark have put on a modern show that succeeds in its effort to appeal to a younger audience. And the key to that success is making sure the audience has as much fun as they’re having—a whole hell of a lot.
Living Dead in Denmark continues at the Red Room tonight (Saturday, Jan. 19), as well as Wednesday, Jan. 23-Friday, Jan. 25. All shows start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $5 in advance or $6 at the door.