- The Washington Times - Friday, August 7, 2009

There’s a zombie version of Jane Austen’s work; why not William Shakespeare’s?

A slew of suicidal Shakespeare heroines are transformed into kung-fu-fighting, undead uber-babes in Qui Nguyen’s horror fantasia, “Living Dead in Denmark,” directed with comic-book flair by Casey Kaleba for Rorschach Theatre.

“Living Dead” moves with the boxy precision of comic-book panels, occasionally bursting out of its confines in ever-escalating battle scenes. The creepy, tattered apocalyptic battlefield set by Robbie Hayes would be at home in a Frank Miller epic, as would the clingy female superhero costumes by Debra Kim Sivigny that mingle goth and go-go boots.

Five years after the carnage that ended “Hamlet,” Elsinore is ravaged by a war between the dwindling humans and an army of zombies led by the Zombie Lord (Tony Bullock), an introspective flesh eater who probably wouldn’t contemplate poor Yorick’s skull, but would feast on it.

The Zombie Lord is besieged by a trio of butt-kicking neo-angels: Juliet (Megan Reichelt), re-imagined as a lipstick-lesbian version of Velma from “Scooby Doo”; Lady M (Katie Atkinson), an ax-wielding heavy-metal heroine with a mouth fouler than anything the three weird witches could concoct; and Ophelia (Amy Quiggins), who awakens from her drowning to find out she’s not a droopy little flower but someone with mad killing skillz.

As they try to save the world, they encounter folios of Shakespeare characters: Oberon (Scott McCormick, gussied up like Dr. Evil from “Austin Powers”), Titania (Adrienne Nelson, a corseted sexpot who seems to have wandered in from a reality bridal show), the Gravedigger (Mr. McCormick again, this time done up like Isaac Hayes from “Shaft”) and Fortinbras (Ben Cunis, who executes “Matrix”-like moves without wires or CGI).

The three also get medieval on just about everyone and each other, and the numerous fighting scenes (with the exception of the final smack-down, in which Mr. Cunis shows how cracking physical combat should be done) get repetitive and tedious.

“Living Dead” is a mash-up of Bardic themes, ninjas, samurais, teen superheroes, pop-culture references and flesh-eating monsters. Most of it is deeply silly, and the tongue-in-cheek dialogue (“I know there’s a heart in you even though it’s not beating!”) begs for comic-book conversation balloons to be placed around it.

If you like your Shakespeare straight-up with a weskit, the gore and irreverence in “Living Dead in Denmark” will make you run howling to the Folger. For those who don’t mind their tragic heroes mingling with the likes of the Dark Knight and the Punisher, cue the music from “Thriller.”

★★★

WHAT: “Living Dead in Denmark” by Qui Nguyen

WHERE: Rorschach Theatre at Georgetown University’s Davis Performing Arts Center, 37th and O streets Northwest

WHEN: 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays through Aug. 23.

TICKETS: $20

PHONE: 800/494-8497

WEB SITE: www.rorschachtheatre.com

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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