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Review: Fullerton's Maverick Theater brings zombies to the Orange County stage with a creepy-fun 'Night of the Living Dead.'

Review: Fullerton's Maverick Theater brings zombies to the Orange County stage with a creepy-fun 'Night of the Living Dead.'

Night of the Living Dead cast

Photos by Brian Newell


ou’re trapped in the living room of what you hope is a deserted home. The world outside has gone terribly wrong. It can’t be so... but it is: The dead are rising. In 1968, director George A. Romero brought zombies into a higher level of popular consciousness with his B-movie classic, Night of the Living Dead. A few years ago, Maverick Theater owner, Brian Newell, decided to add his adaptation of the classic flick to his intimate Fullerton theater’s lineup.

In its third year, the stage performance gives audience members no choice but to follow the harrowing tale of a group of strangers seeking refuge from flesh-eating zombies. Like the movie, most of the drama takes place in a seemingly abandoned rural Pennsylvania farmhouse. Audience members sit in the home’s living room as characters go through emotional breakdowns, angry outbursts, and of course, nail-biting confrontations with the living dead.

Newell and the cast do an excellent job at setting the scene for the performance.

Hungry zombies stand behind a facade of boarded up wall, reaching out for passing guests (and even pulling someone through) as they head to seats in the lounge area, next to the main stage. After a brief introduction by Newell, the audience hears a commotion from the box office area and Newell “evacuates” the audience to the next room. You walk through what appears to be a home’s hallway, complete with family photos, and cross a dark living room. High on the adjacent stairwell a zombie feasts on human remains. You literally must walk through the stage to get to your seat: So once you’re in, there’s no leaving – well, until the show’s over anyway.

We found our seats in the back row, and right as I sat down, the woman beside me screamed out in fright. And then a man further down my row also yelled out. Apparently their legs had been grabbed from below their seats.

Zombie from Night of the Living Dead play

As the drama of the story ensues, it’s virtually impossible not to be drawn in. After all, you’re in the same living room as zombies reach through boarded up windows and attack their victims, inevitably getting inside. Throughout the performance, you hear unsettling slurping and knocking sounds around the theater, which just adds to that sense that you’re in this as deep as the characters.

Heightening the sense of realism are a few unexpected special effects, including simulated fires and a surprise story climax involving a large piece of machinery. The transitions for scene changes to the basement and back to the living room are performed so quickly and smoothly that they don’t interrupt the drama.

If you’re a horror movie fan, or even if you just want to catch an entertaining stage performance with a talented cast, spend a night with the living dead at Maverick Theater.

Night of the Living Dead runs through November 2: Fridays and Saturdays at 9 p.m. with additional Halloween performances starting Sunday, October 26 through Thursday, October 30, at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $19 general admission and $10 for students with current ID. You can also purchase a pre-show dinner Saturdays at 7 p.m. for $49, including your ticket and choice of a three-course meal. Purchase tickets at mavericktheater.com or by calling 714-526-7070. Maverick Theater is located at 110 E. Walnut Ave. in Fullerton, across from the Amtrak station in Downtown Fullerton.

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