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Congealed Emotions Shattered

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Red Like Snow (by Nicholas Rose, and Aerial Segard) takes a look at the human psyche pushed to its limits. RLS examines what happens when a group of strangers and friends are put in the ultimate of untenable positions, an ice cave buried on the side of Mount Rainier.

RLS begins by killing the stage lights on a beautifully sculpted and painted background of ice. Cold blue lights push back the darkness, giving way to a colder, harsher white light. The stage is full of bodies, how many are alive, and how many didn’t make it? How many won’t make it through this ordeal is a question you find yourself asking as the events unfold. Who will break first, who loses hope, who snaps? That’s the well crafted Drama about to unfold on stage at the BRICK HOUSE THEATRE.

RLS is a thriller, like all thrillers, one mustn’t give away too much. I can however talk about the themes Nicholas and Aerial were able to bring to the stage with the help of their wonderful cast. Grief being a main theme that runs throughout the entire performance. Not the simple sobbing grief one sees on screen, in an over acted movie. Cold gritty, palpable grief. Each character goes through the full arc of the Kübler-Ross model of grief. While going through each stage, it’s clear that specific characters represent one stage more so than the others.10699050_619947146502_522760828_n

Ryan (Ioanna Meli) clearly exhibits DENIAL. She can’t accept what has happened to her, and her friend. She’ll do anything to make it stop. Make the pain stop, make the world stop, make this tragedy stop. She even dips into ANGER at times. Tyler (Matt McVay) personifies ACCEPTENCE almost from the beginning. He knows they are up a river without a paddle, or rather at the bottom of a cave without any climbing gear. Alex (Aerial Segard) will BARGAIN with anyone and anything to make sure everyone is safe, she just wants this ordeal to end. Mark (Devon Todd) and Monica (Melissa Graver) are ANGRY, at each other, at their situation, at themselves. They aren’t having any of this. Bradley (Michael Lewis Hudson) and Jenna (Chisten Briele) and both DEPRESSED, with Jenna showing strong signs of DENIAL.

RLS also deals with loss, loss of control, loss of self, loss of the will to live, and finally loss of life. Each character travels through a complex mix of emotions, while touching back on their key emotion. Moving through emotions, while remaining true to a touchstone, a core emotion is a sign of a well written script, and strong acting. The direction (Nicholas Rose) and use of space on a small stage with at times seven actors was pulled of quite nicely. Out of necessity for the size of the stage the actors naturally had to huddle near each other at times. This served to add a layer of claustrophobia to the scenes. They were after all trapped in a freezing cavern. Besides being pressed for space, they would have to stay near for survival alone.

10647625_619947151492_1439180934_nThere were a few physical acting issues that can pull you out of the story, in the beginning at least. The entire Play takes place in an ice cave, with people who just fell what seems like a hundred feet or more. Their movements weren’t sluggish from the onset, their dexterity and control of their hands was a bit too fluid. If you’re freezing you wouldn’t be able to open bags, crawl rapidly, and manipulate rope so easily. Nor would you take off your gloves to assemble a tent. As the story progressed and each character picked up the weight of their own afflictions, body and mind, they took ownership of their bodies. Mark did an excellent job of hiding the loss of function on his hand due to frost bite. Alex had the nervous tension of someone carrying too heavy a burden. Jenna was sick with worry, and Tyler was just plain sick from trauma. Towards the end of the Play each actor was a master of their body, and their portrayal of their individual struggle was painted on their respective living canvases.

Writing, and performing a story, that seems so familiar to the human experience, while breathing new life into it isn’t easy. The good folks who brought Red Like Snow to life were able to do just this. Hikers lost and trapped on a snowy mountain seem like a well used story. It is, but Rose, Segard, and their cast pull it off in a unique way that makes it stand apart from previous versions of the story. It’s like an old fairy tale, we all know the ending, but sometimes it’s the journey and the narrator that make it special.

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Red Like Snow (Written by Nicholas Rose, and Aerial Segard, Directed by Nicholas Rose) shows at the BRICK HOUSE THEATRE through September 14th.

For more information please visit. www.facebook.com/redlikesnow

One Soul of a Good Time

This week in my game (new campaign 2 new players). First meeting at the tavern.

A tiefling and a drow disembark from a paddle ship in a backwater bayou town. Red Gnome, a town known best for being a stop over to anywhere better. Well a stop over, and zombies, even the dire mosquitoes turn zombie. There are quite a few undead cults, and some even had out hick tracts, going door to door prostetaliaing the joys and freedom of being undead.

As the drow and tiefling make their way through a crowed docks, a dwarf dressed far to flamboyantly contemplates going over, through or around the town hall on the way to the tavern. Scratching his Mohawk the dwarf tosses a coin in the air “heads over, tails through”. The coin hits the eve and ricochets down the alley. A passerby picks it up, staring at it his eyes lose focus and he passes out. “Inside out again, I guess I go around, come on you stupid donkey”. A relieved warhorse gives a whinny and follows.

Arriving at the tavern he orders the best Dwarven ale available. Next to him a human with wrapped knuckles finishes his drink. “You call this strong, give me something that’ll curl my hair”. An annoyed bartender opens a top shelf and pulls out a ceramic bottle. Pouring a shot as carefully as possible. The human takes up the shot, now glowing faintly green, “now that’s what I’m talking about.”.

As the tiefling leaves the docks and makes her way to the dusty main road she looks up, seeing the sun at high noon. With a sigh she pulls her hood further down, covering her face. Suddenly a shadowy form coalesces, taking the shape of a prismatic dragon born, in priestly vestments. “If you don’t like the looks people give you why do you insist on meditating with a demon every morning”. “It keeps us alive”. “It doesn’t keep me alive, my faith in the arcane keeps me alive”. The tiefling pushes onward attempting to ignore the apparition. From the shadows the drow gives her and the shadow a wary look.

Approaching the tavern the tiefling steps over a drunken human. Before she can step through the threshold the dragonkin leans over and says “if you can’t hold your drink, maybe you…” Stepping through the door and closing it the tiefling breathes a sigh of relief. Scanning the bar for a safe table she notices her companion happily waving from a table that covers the whole room.

Outside the drow sees the shadow dissipate. The human looking around for the source of the voice spots a warhorse. “Drink, of course I’ll have another, I’m still waiting for the last one to kick in.”. With a smirk the drow walks by “that’s a horse, not a bar wench”, proceeding to enter the tavern.

Seeing all the most defensible positions taken, the drow sits against the far wall, shifting so one eye looks west towards the tiefling and her strange companion, the eye, a mechanical piece spins around never focusing on one spot too long. He calls over a server.

“What will you two ladies have”, the tiefling orders mead, and asks for an empty class for her friend. “What she said I’ll have a water.”. Shaking her head the tiefling inquires about a patron she heard of on the paddle ship, one who might offer a job. Glaring at the two women for a moment she nods to the far corner near the bar proper “that’s the man you’ll want.”.

Looking towards the dwarf, Laschiel notices another flamboyant dwarf approach and pound beer steins down at the table. “Have you heard the good word of Loki, Dwarven god of chaos?”. Before she can restrain her companion she notices wisps of shadow forming behind the flamboyant dwarf. “Chaotic magic does not need help, but I suppose an agent of chaos with sufficient power can drive magic forward as well as any other.”. The dwarf stares at the shadowy figure for a moment and takes a long pull from his stein.

Suddenly the tavern doors swing open and no one enters. The doors don’t quite close all the way and on the floor a drunken human is crawling in. Back at the table in the corner the business like dwarf asks the two if they would like a job. The flamboyant dwarf says he might like some coin. Excited, but apprehensive the dragonkin asks for more info. “Why don’t you invite your friend over to discuss the details.”. “We are partners and I can decide for us.” “Humor me?” “I never get to decide anything it’s not…”.

From across the room Laschiel says she’ll be right over. On her way she grabs a pitcher of water, pouring it on the drunk human. By the time she gets there the drow is standing near. The human chokes on water for a moment, sitting up seeing a large party gathered around a table he stumbles over to see what all the fun is about.

“There you have it, a simple job killing a local Mage, whose darlings in the chaotic are making a mess for everyone. I”ll pay you all ten gold, plus you may keep whatever items you may find,mor monies of course.”. With a sigh of incredulity the dragonkin speaks up “she makes more in one hour plying her disgusting trade at local inns”.

The drunken human leans against the shadowy dragon for a moment, Laschiel’s eyes glow purple, only to fall through her into a chair. Laschiel lets out a laugh. “And what is this trade your friend specializes in”, the human asks standing to wobbly feat. “She whips men, and women for money, ties them up, it’s all rather unseemly”.

Eyes wide with glee the human strokes the tielfings horn. “So my dear, you’re a lady of the red light, how much for a go here and now?”. “I’m not a call girl, I provide a needed outlet for those who need to be dominated.”. Stroking her horn a little more vigorously “don’t play hard to get, how much I’ll pay upfront.”. “If you haven’t notice we’re trying to discuss business with this man.”. “So am I, come one you’re a whore just take my money!”.

To the side the drow bargains a hard deal, insisting on half of the gold up front, as a good faith gesture.

Turning to face the human squarely, she smiles. In a voice laced with honey, and a tinge of venom “oh sweetie”. She reaches forward, he flinches, she strokes his cheek. “Sweetie, you wouldn’t have the stamina for what I’d to to you”.

Her eyes flash purple, than go dark. As she finishes stroking his cheek, his eyes roll back and she shutters. Pulling her hand away from his cheek she draws out a portion of his soul. Looking at the delicate aether in her hand, she shakes away the remnant like so much flotsam washed up from the bayou.

He convulses and falls to the floor. “Oh my god you killed him!”. “That’s enough from you”. Waving her hand she scatters the shadows that comprise her ‘friend’. The drow looks to her, “you can just dismiss her?”. “Not all the time, it’s complicated, her hysterics should keep her at bay for a few hours at least.”.

Looking to the human the drow asks “is he really dead”. Kicking him with a cloven foot Laschiel shrugs “seems that way.”. “Oh dear, this could be a problem, this was supposed to be a four man job.”. “I could heal him if I had my supplies the flamboyant dwarf mentions.”. “I’ve actually got something”, the drow reaches into his bag. Pulling out a cylinder with a big red button. Pushing it once a metal needle unsheathes at lightning speed, making a biting sound as the metal scrapes against it’s housing.

Along the side in common it says ‘this way to semi dead’, with an arrow pointing towards the needle. He plunges the needle into the heart of the human and pushes he red button once again. The humans body goes stiff his eyes fly open and golden light shines through them. Standing up screaming he shouts “that was the best sex ever! How much do I owe you”. Grabbing the cylinder from his chest, and yanking at an angle Laschiel says “he hired us to do a job, half now, half on completion. I get your half now.” “Works for me, how much to go again?”. “There won’t be an again, and if there is, there won’t be medical aide so readily available either.”. She shakes the needle under his nose and drops it to the table.

Later as the party makes their way along the bayou road, the dragonkin appears. “What happened, did you really kill him”. Stepping forward the drow looks at the shadow “he was just drunk, I gave him something to sober up”. With a sigh she says “Oh that’s good! I’d hate Laschiel to go to jail. Somehow she alwayse ends up dragging her with me.” Wandering off she fades away. “So you really can’t control her?”. “Oh it gets worse than that.”.

Pulled into the shadows

HauntedWallsandApparitions@ZJU_CastPic1Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre Group delves into the dark once more, pulling the audience into the shadows. Haunted Walls and Apparitions is the latest installment in Zombie Joe’s non linear audience interaction Plays. Speaking of audience interaction a word of caution to the wise, or a dare to the brave, you’re free to move around the theatre during the show. You see there is no seating, and the cast moves among the audience. If you’re lucky enough to be in the right place, the cast almost seems to chase you about the stage.

Haunted Walls is both linear and non linear at the same time. Each piece undergoes its own evolution, reaching a climax, then proceeds to blend into the next. You’ll see an ancient culture make and worship fire, as the prime protector from the darkness. You’ll see another culture caught up in what I found very reminiscent of Walpurgis Night from Fantasia. Pre humans shuffle onstage and gather to what appears to be a random point on the wall. The lights plunge, chanting begins. When the lights return, the pre-humans withdraw to reveal a demon, which holds sway over them like a puppet master. The Demon first tests their faith, and his powers. He employs frantic and violent gestures spinning them round and round in a hurricane of limbs. Eventually he singles one victim out for the entire tribe to consume.

In yet another evolutionary piece, something rises from the muck, and eventually takes on the form of raptors, flightless birds. They squawk, chirp, hiss, and begin to form a pecking order for mating, and cannibal consumption, resulting in only one raptor remaining.HauntedWallsandApparitions@ZJU_Pic3

From start to finish Haunted Walls and Apparitions has an organic flow. There is a tidal force drawing you from the shallows into the deep waters. Once out in the open you’re fully subjected to the whims of nature. That’s exactly what Haunted Walls is; it’s a force of nature on stage. The performance grows more powerful and unstoppable in front of you. Each piece starting small enough to draw you in, then when it’s too late the chaos begins.

Haunted Walls and Apparitions is modern performance art at its finest. The pieces flow with apparent lack of form, but there is an undercurrent. How else would each piece draw you further into the chaotic, dark and brooding world that is Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre.

I can’t give away much more, for two reasons. One it would spoil your fun, and two, Haunted Walls and Apparitions is entirely subjective. Each piece can be seen by ten people, and be interpreted thirteen different ways. Depending on where you sat, and what philosophies you hold true to while walking through life.

I will say this, sit, or stand as close to the center of the Theatre as possible. It’s quite fun to be chased by pre-humans, or cringe away from the unknown. Watch the audience as well as the performance while you’re at it. If you look closely there is something primal in the audience as well. When the show begins there is a brief sound, and a curtain rustles. Though it is impossible for everyone to see, the entire audience shifts towards stage left, as if one subconscious command were given. From this moment on, your neighbor is as much a part of the show as the cast. Their reactions will enhance your experience. Seeing your neighbor jump at something you laugh at is part of what makes Haunted Walls such a great show. Seeing a show like Haunted Walls and Apparitions push the boundaries, and to do so quite well makes for a great night of theatre.

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Haunted Walls and Apparitions Directed by Zombie Joe, shows Saturday Nights in North Hollywood at 11pm through June 28th.

For more information please visit www.zombiejoes.com

All photo credit: Zombie Joe

Vampyric Seduction

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Before I begin, I must disclose that I contributed to the “Go Fund Me” for this production. The writer, David and I are friends, and having read an early draft of the script I knew felt I needed to contribute to a staging of Carmilla, if only in a small way. My review is honest and without bias though, I hope y’all enjoy my review, and take the time to see this production.

Carmilla is the latest erotic gothic offering, placed upon the Black Box Theatre alter known as Zombie Joe’s Underground. Carmilla is a deliciously seductive fare, one that will give you nocturnal visions, perhaps even a nightmare…

Carmilla is adapted from the novella by Joseph Sheridan LeFanu, a vampire story that predates Dracula by over two decades. More than just a vampire story, it’s a coming of age piece, one that centers around Laura Fontaine (Lara Lihya), during a pivotal time when a woman comes into her own true self. The story is told in two overlapping parts, the past and present. The settings, both time and location, for this well crafted adaptation become characters themselves. Each providing the necessary undercurrent needed to pull the audience into the spell.

CARMILLA@ZJU_PHOTO_2The story opens with Laura listening to the radio, as she receives a caller at the door. Captain Martin (Amir Khalighi) from the United Kingdoms JAG office is looking to interview Laura in regards to her petition to repatriate to her fathers home country. After a few social niceties the story begins to shift to the past. This is where the settings as characters make their appearance. The past, where Laura’s story takes place, is an Austrian schloss (chateau) during the rise of the Third Riech. The present, Laura’s flat in Brittish controlled Gratz, Austria around the end of the war.

Both settings offer keys to what Laura is going through. Nazi controlled Austria is a place of repression, fear, self doubt. All the emotions a young woman might go through as they come of age, particularly with an over protective parent. The present, a sense of relief, as if a great weight has been lifted, though apprehension at the uncertainty the future holds. The same apprehension a young adult might face as they look out on the possibility of a life fully under their own control.

As the story unfolds, both the past and present weave together on stage. Laura recalls the events surrounding the meeting, and untimely parting, of Carmilla (Vanessa Cate). At the start of her story she steps from her apartment and into the past. Captain Martin is left behind, becoming an audience member, viewing her story as if it were playing out in front of him. At one point he even walks around her memory as if seeking a better perspective, a different angle on the events unfolding.

Shifting between the past and present has a unique effect on the viewer. There is an ebb and flow, every cycle pulls the audience further into the story. This push and pull is only enhanced by the Directors’ use of their actors. As Laura leaves the past mid memory, the past freezes in place awaiting her return. When she leaves the present for the past Martian is still there. Acting as a surrogate audience member. Martin, representing the audience viewing Laura’s past. Martin becomes enthralled by Carmilla, and her interactions with Laura, much like the audience he is put under her spell. He serves as the control mechanism, when he raises a question it is a question we would have raised. When he is held breathless we are held breathless.

Carmilla is erotic, it is seduction through control, self discovery, and danger. The unknown is dangerous on an instinctive level, it is also sensual and exciting. Seduction is an art, it must be forceful, yet gentle. The victim/s must be given a chance to breathe however, lest the seducer lose their hold. There are two victims, Laura, and the audience, each must be considered by the seducer, held tightly one moment and released the next. Laura’s, and our, respite comes in the form of her family, and attendants. Fontaine (Edgar Allan Poe IV), her protective father, not quite ready to release her to the wide world. Madame Perradon (Deneen Melody), part servant part governess, whose ghost stories further Laura’s excitement, her sense of anticipation. Then there is Carlsberg (Irwin Moskowitz), a peddler who provides a touchstone to Laura’s past, a shadow of the times, as well as a brief view into the more dangerous aspect of Carmilla.

CARMILLA@ZJU_PHOTO_1A review of Carmilla wouldn’t be complete without a sampling of the seductive fare offered up to the gothic alter. It starts with a stolen moment, and powerful heart stopping eye contact. The eyes are the gateway to the soul, and Carmilla knows this. From there confidence is offered, Carmilla lets Laura know she is a singularly important woman, a vision from her dreams in fact. As this tantalizing dance progresses Carmilla even teaches Laura how to tango. Carmilla grants Laura a moment of power, instructing Laura to dip her. In that moment Laura appears to be the predator, eyes moving over Carmilla’s delicate, and beautiful form. Nothing is quite as seductive as power, especially when willingly given.

Unfortunately Carmilla’s spell cannot last forever. Her undoing closes in on her, like a great counter curse set in motion ages before. As one spell ends, another begins though, for Laura is really the enchantress. It’s her story after all, and she has her audience in Captain Martin. She also has a beautiful flatmate, Ingrid Vordenberg (Annalee Scott), a news radio broadcaster, one whom Laura has seduced herself…CARMILLA@ZJU_PHOTO_8

Good theatre casts a spell on the audience, once cast only that which is on stage exists. Carmilla does just this. From the moment the lights come up and the radio crackles, only Laura, and her seductive spell exist. She gives us some power over her, in that she reveals her past, only to draw us further into her spell. In the end, you might find yourself longing for the passionate and painful embrace of either Laura or Carmilla. Knowing full well that it would most likely end your existence.

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Carmilla, written by David MacDowell Blue, directed by Mark Hein and David MacDowell Blue, runs at Zombie Joe’s Underground in North Hollywood Saturdays and Sundays at 11pm thorugh March 15th.

For more information please visit www.zombiejoes.com

 

All Photo Credit:  Richard M. Johnson.

A Love Story fit for Mary Shelley

PIECES_at_ZJU_Theatre_60-680_FINAL-WEBPieces is a Rom-Com, the latest offering from Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre Group, that will have you in stitches. Written and Directed by Adam Neubauer, it is the perfect answer to all the gushy romance stories that abound during the spring.

The story takes place in the aftermath of John’s (Alex Walters) recent break up. John’s friends, all save one are beautiful women, show up to console him, and sober him up. The each take shifts keeping him company, and stopping him from calling his ex. Pieces takes a unique look at the modern dynamics of society. John and all of his friends are in one giantcodependent relationship, each knowing practically everything about the other. What happens when we know everything about our friends, and are on some level attracted to them?

Pieces turns a break up into something to laugh at. We’ve all been through bad break ups and each joke made at the expense of John makes our past experiences seem a little less harsh. Running parallel to the jokes is a forbidding undercurrent. Something you can’t quite put your finger on at first. This adds a level of suspense to what is essentially a comedy.PIECES@ZJU_PHOTO_2 (2)

In a fit of grief John comes to a disturbing revelation, each of his friends in part make up the sum of his now ex-girlfriend. After an unfortunate drunken argument with Patricia (Chelsea Miltano), John strangles her. Gus (Tucker Matthews) tries to get John to calm down, but only seems to encourage him.

From here the story takes a darker, more sexual turn. With calculating eyes that remind one of Herbert West, John analyzes and weighs each of his friends, finding which piece of them will add up to the perfect form of his lover. If only he could gather the various Pieces from his friends and stitch them together.

In the end John is left with no friends, but the perfect lover, unfortunately all she can do is love him, and that might just be his undoing.

Pieces is full of touching moments, the connection between his friends. How they are willing to drop everything to care for him. All of this emotion is just prelude to the final scene, a very poignant scene. After John’s life is spent, taken by the love of his creation the ghosts of his friends return. Each in turn clothes his creation, covering their respective body part. It’s a silent scene, but you can feel the weight of what is unsaid, each ghost tells what remains of themselves, and their friends “I love you”.

Pieces is not just as Rom-Com, it’s a dark love affair, between a man and his internal demons. His friends, the better angels of his nature try to pull him back from the abyss. In the end, being unable to save him, they were at least given a measure of revenge. Revenge being derived from hate, is a razors edge from love.

Going into Pieces on Valentine’s day I had no idea what to expect. Would it be a gushy love story, a horror story? What I saw was a perfect blend of macabre and romance. A dark story that blends the darker emotions of the human spirit.

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Pieces (Written and Directed by Adam Neubauer) runs Friday Nights through March 21st, at 8:30pm at Zombie Joe’s Underground Theater Group.

Schizophrenic Spirals

DITWHcoverDreams in the Witch House a Lovecraftian Rock Opera is a conceptual album, put together by The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society. HPLHS are the purveyors of macabre fair such as “A Very Scary Solstice”, and “An Even Scarier Solstice”. As well as Dark Adventure Radio Theatre, radio drama adaptations of some of Lovecraft’s finest stories.

Dreams, begins softly, with piano and a litany of monks accompanying echoed footsteps, all leading to a confession. The entire Opera is told after the fact as the confession of a damned soul unfortunate enough to witness the horror that occurred at the Witch House, a boarding house in the fabled Arkham, on the banks of the Miskatonic. As the confession begins the refrains of a metal guitar pick up, crescendoing into the “Arkham Ovature”.

After the Ovature, Frank Elwood (Andrew Leman) begins confessing his spiral into madness. Starting with an explanation of a unique town, and mysterious house. The pressure behind the song, builds as he explains the dangers of the Witch House, and the ramifications of taking up residence in this particular boarding house. The remainder of the song provides the foreshadowing of what is to come, by explaining what has already transpired.

Dreams is filled with religious iconography, or audioography as the case may be. From the confession, to repetition of references to the trinity, holy symbols, and even pagan rites. Heavy Metal, has alwayse been filled with religious references, some revered, some used as blasphemy. By weaving them together, layer upon layer, in what is essentially a Dark Opera, they begin to blend. What is holy, what is profane, are the villains just lost souls? All of these questions, and more are left up to the listener.

After the introduction, and foreshadowing, the story returns to the past. Walter Gilman (Mike Dalager ) and Frank have taken up residence in the only boarding house affordable to students of poor means, the Witch House! Walter who studies mathematics, and folklore becomes obsessed with the Witch House, the stories that surround it, and his room in particular. He thinks the strange geometry of his room holds the keys to unlocking the mysteries of the universe. His obsession goes so far as to solve a myriad of complex mathematical formula, to the astonishment, and confoundment of his professors, and peers.

As the story progresses Frank begins to worry, that maybe the folklore of the Witch House, isn’t just story. Their neighbors even begin to complain about strange sounds and lights, perhapse even a strange creature!? Frank fears that Walter, may just have made some Faustian deal in exchange for his prowess in math. The neighbors, salt of the earth type, fear the upcoming pagan rites of Walpurgis Night will draw forth something too terrible for words. You’ll get no more spoilers from me, Lovecraft must be experienced for one’s self, as must this Rock Opera.

What I can talk about is the album as a whole. HPLHS is quite adept at bringing Lovecraft into the modern era. Often when such projects are attempted, they must be transformed, it’s through such transformative work that old stories can take on new, far grandeur layers than ever before. HPLHS has done just that with this Rock Opera. The use of Opera as a medium, take the story far further than any retelling ever could. Music takes hold of us, body and soul, and when the journey involves the journey of the soul, I can think of no better medium for such a surreal journey.

In transformative works, additions must be made out of necessity. It’s alwasye a risk to make additions to the work of another, particularly such a well known author. When each transformation hits the mark? What you have stands alone as a unique work unto itself. Take the track “Legends and Lore”, one single track 50% of the way through the story, a villain is completely transformed. She is made sympathetic, while still a villain, it’s easier to understand how she became so evil. It’s not her fault, she was a product of her times. “Legends and Lore” is a pivotal track, and until the dénouement tracks, perhapse one of the most important tracks. The past in it’s entirety hangs upon this track, with it we have context, without it, we just have a horror story.

Speaking of the dénouement, there are two endings, an ending to the story as told through the confession, and an ending for the Frank. “Crawling Chaos”, and “Azathoth” build up to the ending, they contain the big reveal, the “true trinity” as it were, and the identity of the power behind the powers in the universe. Followed quickly by “No Sacrafice”, as the final confrontation between Gilman, and the darkness. It’s where he makes his final final decision. “No Turning Back” shows the aftermath of his resolution, which way will his soul sway, did he ever have a choice? Did Keziah Mason (Alaine Kashian ) have a choice. Will either of them be redeemed?

Between Reality and Dreaming” brings Frank’s confession to an end, with the showing of his greatest sin… This is where the story takes a turn, it wasn’t Gilman’s story, it was Frank’s journey the entire time? Will his Schizophrenic Spiral, break him? Will he find absolution, or simply descend into madness, body and soul lost to the darkness…

This entire album, is enthralling. You’re pulled along the journey, rising and descending unconsciously as the songs progress the story. In the end, you have to shake yourself awake, pull yourself back into reality. This is only accomplished due to the collective brilliance of all involved. From the artistic director, to the instrumentals and the singers. The use of a Spanish Guitar in the middle of a Rock Opera for instance, provides a brief respite, allowing you to catch your breath, before you’re pulled further into the spirals of chaos. I can’t say enough about the vocals on this album. Keziah, herself has many layers, from innocent victim, to beautiful seductress, finally damned soul weary of her journey and seeking ascension to a plain of rest.

There is nothing I can say at this point that won’t come across as rambling. DinWH is an album that must be experienced for yourself, and I invite everyone to buy a copy. Whether you like Rock Operas, are a long time fan of Lovecraft, or just like existential exploration through music, this is the album for you.

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Dreams in the Witch House, A Lovecraftian Rock Opera, is avaliable on CD, Dual Violet Vinel LP, and download.

For more information please visit:

http://witchhouserocks.com/

or

http://www.cthulhulives.org/store/storeDetailPages/witchhouse.htm

Outside the Lines

Nightmares posterThere are a few ways to describe Nightmares, Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre Group‘s 2014 season opener. A writing mass of living art, might just be the most inclusive description I can give this uniquely disturbing show.

NIGHTMARES@ZJU_PIC_7The show features many regulars of Zombie Joe’s, each adding their own personal flare to the fare. From Donna Ibale’s coreography, to Corey Zicari’s unnerving, disturbingly ghoulish pressence. Even Roger Weiss’s commanding pressence, and economy of motion. They all add layers to this show. Unfortunately being a large ensamble piece I won’t be able to mention everyone, but they will be tagged to the side of this review. They all deserve much more praise than I can give them here.

Nightmares begins with a creepy curtain raiser. The house opens, and the audience is free to enter at their leisure. As you find a place to sit, or stand, painted face performs move silently through the Theatre. Only breaking their silence to loom over the audience and offer them an appetizer (some of the audience even sampled the fare). This is particularly creepy when two of them stare at you and speak in unison. The opener takes on the ambiance of an arch-feind’s dinner party. Eventually the servers glide out of the Theatre, leaving you to ponder what on earth is about to happen.

Once the stage is empty the lights go out, and you’re subjected to a Zombie Joe’s stable. Auditory Theatre. In a tiny black box Theatre, darker than dark, your senses begin to stretch beyond your person. It’s at this point, when the darkness feels palpable, that is when the sounds begin. First clicking and clacking, then unknown creepy crawlies, all crescendoing to something that I won’t ruin here. You’ll have to show up and hold your breath, to find out for yourself. Following the sound treatment, dead silence…NIGHTMARES@ZJU_PIC_3

What follows is a series of jointed and disjointed peices. As the Various Nightmares flow across the stage, some start out peacefully, others cutting straight to the point. Still some involve multiple perspectives, one man’s nightmare is another’s secret fetish. One in particular follows the course of an EKG, the heart monitors you see when you visit someone in the hospital. Starting as one groups dream, then turning to their dread and another’s pleasure, changing still to dread and revenge, as the control ebbs and flows.

At times two Nightmares blend together, often making it hard to tell where one ends, and another begins. For the other more distinct Nightmares, our shared folklore guide us, helping us find the edges of this surreal madness. That is, the classics make an appearance, showing up to work naked, running but going nowhere, even pulling from Dante Alighieri’s work in a few places.

NIGHTMARES@ZJU_PIC_2Nightmares touches on so many dark dreams, I would be hard pressed to describe them all. Aside from the classics, it is very much open to interpretation. My river of the dead, might be another’s endless conformity, a brutal murder, might be an escape from your nightmare. Each piece is intertwined with a feverish intensity. The choreographed dance numbers give way to unchoreographed chaos, flowing from still calm decisive movements to frantic, heart pounding, existential, disconnected uncertainty.

As I said before Nightmares is a writing mass of living art, art that will pull you in. This is colour outside the lines Theatre. It’s something new to Zombie Joes’s, an experiment in interactive Theatre. The audience if fully encouraged to come up on stage and wake around the performers (after the show, I heard several patrons saying they planned on returning to do just that.). At times the performers come out into the audience, and being alive, and unpredictable they might even bump into you once or twice. This only serves to add to the unpredictable nature of a nightmare. We are seeing through the veil into a living nightmare unique to Zombie Joe’s.

Nightmares is a unique experience, and whatever I say, your perceptions will be your own. What you will witness is largely based on your own life path. It’s a mirror into the dark corners of our psyche. No matter how hard we try to avoid them, they alwayse manage to come rushing at us in the dark like a derailed train, full of concussive sound.

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Nightmares (Directed by Zombie Joe) runs Fridays and Saturdays at 11pm thorugh Febuary 1st.

For more information please visit www.zombiejoes.com

All Photos Credit: Zombie Joe

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