The clever writing is unfortunately as uneven as a zombie attempting to shamble up a staircase.

Rob Rinow’s horror comedy “Detention of the Dead” has an amusing basic idea — combining the plots of “The Breakfast Club” and “Night of the Living Dead” — but the occasionally clever writing is unfortunately as uneven as a zombie attempting to shamble up a staircase. The play is livened up considerably by a strong cast that has fun with the characters’ broad stereotypes, but Alex Craig Mann’s direction seems unfocused, so even clocking in at just a bit over an hour, the show could use some tightening.

Five high school students (attending George A. Romero High School) are in detention on the day hordes of the walking dead invade the school, so the students barricade themselves in. Eddie (Alex Weed), the nerd, has studied his zombie flicks and is determined to live. Cheerleader Janet (Crystle Lightning) wants her quarterback boyfriend Brad (Mike Horton) to defeat the zombies and save her. Wise-ass stoner Ash (Michael Petted) sees the whole thing as a joke, and Goth chick Willow (Samantha Sloyan) tries to act as though she’s above it all. The five teenagers probably would bond and break down their preconceptions of each other if ravenous corpses didn’t keep popping in to try and eat them.

Weed is very funny as the jittery Eddie, and his “Thriller” dance is inspired silliness. Horton is appropriately bullying and alpha male as Brad. Lightning excels as the thoroughly self-involved Janet, impressing in big moments such as a scene in which she tries to seduce each person in the room, one after the other, to a hilarious little moment where she distractedly can’t seem to find a drinking straw with her mouth. Sloyan scores as the sardonic Willow, her jibes masking her fear, but Petted overplays his blustering bad boy Ash.

Jeff McLaughlin’s classroom set is effective and efficient.

Detention of the Dead

Beverly Hills Playhouse Research Space; 31 seats; $20 top

Production

A Katselas Theater Company presentation of a play in one act by Rob Rinow. Directed by Alex Craig Mann.

Creative

Sets and lighting, Jeff McLaughlin; sound, David Bartlett; production stage manager, Rowland Hamilton. Opened, reviewed Nov. 7, 2009; runs through Dec. 5. Running time: 1 HOUR, 5 MIN.
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