THEATER REVIEW: 'The Zombies Walk Among Us'

Brian Kral's original drama "The Zombies Walk Among Us," now at the Rainbow Company, combines the spirit of Haiti's past and present. Cell phones mix with voodoo in a country that can't seem to rise from the ashes, no matter the century.

Kral sets his story in the aftermath of the Port-au-Prince earthquake. The devastation renews for some the superstitions of yesterday.

The story is humanized by the tale of the daughter (Sasha Bond) of an American aid worker (Dale Segal-Kral) who thinks she has seen her deceased sister roaming about with zombies. The girl investigates and winds up learning a lot not just about Haiti and her sister, but the role of traditions and spirits in modern life.

There's a problem at the core of the script in that it often plays like a history lesson. There's a lot of information, but not much action. The real drama -- a girl biting into a piece of glass to spite her father, a mother watching helplessly as her daughter dies of an easily curable disease, the earthquake itself -- all happens offstage and is explained. Kral wants us to get to know Haiti, but he uses an encyclopedic approach. The little action there is -- some hypnotic movement, a confrontation in the climax -- feels tacked on.

As a director, though, Kral elicits some fine performances. Bond, as the girl seeking answers about her sister, comes across as tough enough to make us believe she's determined to seek out the truth yet vulnerable enough to make us worry about her. Haiti is not for sissies, and Bond lets you know her character can handle herself.

Segal-Kral makes for a brooding, dutiful and devoted mother and doctor, who, despite her belief in her work, seems to be carrying the world on her shoulders.

Martha Watson, as a native doctor who has a mysterious side to her seemingly simple personality, gives the show a surprising dose of warmth.

And Benjamin Onyx Dowdy, as a threatening voodoo priest, injects the script with much-needed humor.

I wish, though, that- Kral could find a way to incorporate his exposition into the plot. I can't imagine most children willing to sit still for this stilted lecture.

What: "The Zombies Walk Among Us"
When: 7 p.m. Thursday-Friday; 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Where: Reed Whipple Cultural Center, 821 N Las Vegas Blvd.
Tickets: $3-$7 (229-6553)
Grade: C-