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‘Evil Dead’ a bloody good time

Off-Strip Productions and RagTag Entertainment are twice blessed with "Evil Dead: The Musical."

The song-and-dance pastiche of all things zombie opened at the Onyx in October for a limited engagement. Apparently, audiences like gross-out. The original show consistently turned people away, and director Sirc Michaels is hoping they'll try their luck again.

The remount remains in top shape. The 16-member cast is mostly made up of returnees, and the show continues to feel like a mad, yet precise, improvisation.

No need to say much about the plot. It ain't O'Neill, but it's funny.

Five college students wander into the woods and become squatters in an isolated cabin. Their mistake. Visitors frequently form intimate relationships with hammers, daggers, rifles and chain saws. This troupe's one hope may be that leader Ash -- a young, Walter Mitty-ish housewares employee -- is determined to save everyone. I'll give away this much: He seldom succeeds.

Michaels gets jaunty, playful performances and manages to keep the silliness in check. John Tomasello is a dangerous-looking hick straight out of "Deliverance" (if "Deliverance" had been a farce). Matthew Antonizick is amusingly hen-pecked as a man who stumbles onto some deadly doings. As Ash's best friend, Brian Roark brings to mind a testosterone-crazy middle-aged Elvis; he gets a lot of mileage out of his character's delusion that he's a ladies man.

Sarah Willick is seductive and warm as Ash's girlfriend. She's gifted with a strong, sensitive belt that makes you want more. And Ben Stobber as Ash again finds a perfect playing level. He projects a tongue-in-cheek attitude, but it's entrenched in a firm reality base. For all his hamming (he has a great right eyebrow that lifts whenever his character thinks something is amiss), the actor never fails to keep us believing that Ash is a human being.

Stobber gives us a moment of physical comedy bliss, when he is forced to fight one of his hands. The thing has become an independent villain, and Stobber somehow convinces us the extremity has a mind of its own.

Major word of warning: Come prepared to get wet. It's amazing how much blood a human body can hold.

Anthony Del Valle can be reached at vegastheaterchat @aol.com. You can write him c/o Las Vegas Review-Journal, P.O. Box 70, Las Vegas, NV 89125.

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