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Another Part of the Forest

My Boyfriend Is a Zombie

Jamaal Kendall gives an expressive and hilarious performance in the title role of this otherwise sophomoric musical.

By New York City
Jamaal Kendall and Nicole Patullo
in My Boyfriend Is a Zombie
(© Jonathan Slaff)
Jamaal Kendall and Nicole Patullo
in My Boyfriend Is a Zombie
(© Jonathan Slaff)
My Boyfriend Is a Zombie has arrived at Theater for the New City with a very faint pulse. Whatever life this musical possesses is thanks to a genuinely hilarious and surprisingly expressive performance by Jamaal Kendall as the show's title character, the strong voices of several members of its female cast, and some toe-tapping if purposefully derivative 1950s pop music, co-composed by Gary Schreiner and William Electric Black (who also directed and wrote the lyrics).

Sadly, the show's book is truly dreadful and the plot is hardly worth recounting or remembering (except for the fact that it has one fairly clever turn at the very end). The piece, which is set in 1958, begins with a totally unnecessary prologue by an equally unnecessary narrator, Zombette (Verna Hampton). Then, the musical begins in earnest with four high school girls at a sleepover, finding that one of them is being stalked by a lonely Zombie named "Grr" (because that's about all he can say).

Grr falls in love with the show's heroine, Paula (Nicole Patullo), who thinks she might do better than dating a Zombie, but eventually succumbs to his less than obvious charms. They go to the Halloween Hop together, where a rumble ensues and Grr is caught by the police and punished -- by being sent to Hollywood to star in a Zombie movie.

A lot of the dialogue is awful -- and the three young actors who play dumb punks in the show (Jeremy Lardieri, Lenin Alevante, and Matthew Hooper) are forced to recite lines that would make The Three Stooges blush with embarrassment. Worse, perhaps, are the long stretches of the show when the stage is empty and literally nothing is happening while the actors change their costumes and eventually re-appear.

Fortunately, most of the cast makes the best of being on-stage. The four young girls in the cast (Cara S. Liander, Allison Troesch, Macah Coates, and Erin Salm) all have strong voices. The choreography by Jeremy Lardieri -- who also plays the lead punk with conviction -- is fun, and the costume design by Tilly Grimes is amusing,

If there is a potentially serious side to this cosmically sophomoric piece, one supposes that there is a subtext in which the Zombies are stand-ins for African-Americans circa 1958 (especially since the only two African-American actors in the cast both play Zombies). But even if we are meant to infer that the way they are feared and shunned is a statement about racism, so what? One is neither enlightened by My Boyfriend Is a Zombie nor particularly entertained.


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