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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

Preternatural Shadows

Mystery-Plays-2x3-web_optThe Mystery Plays by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, brings a medieval tradition back to life. Using the inherent mystical nature of the darker days of winter to ask the characters and audience questions about the nature of life, and our place there in.

Roberto’s work weaves two stories together, using the lens of the preternatural to examine dark questions about our place in the world. This is brought together brilliantly by the talented folks at The Visceral Company. Their gift for bringing macabre ideas to life is truly a joy to watch.

The audience is taken on a train ride through the more ephemeral realms. You begin to feel like a passenger in the Twilight Zone. The tracks pass the House of Mysteries, and the House of Secrets, on it’s way through the graveyard that separates our world from the unknown.

MYST PL photo 4Mister Mystery (Frank Blocker) serves as the conductor for our journey. Stepping through a black door onto a dark stage; he begins his soliloquy posing questions designed to engage and unnerve. As Mister Mystery explains the nature of the houses, and the journey we are about to undertake the entire cast assemble around him. Enter Joe Manning (Daniel Jimenez), he is late for his own mystery and is subsiquently chided by Mister Mystery.

The Filmmaker’s Mystery begins on a train, Joe is on his way home for the holidays. As the story progresses Joe takes a few asides for narration. Snapped from his introspection he finds a young man sitting next to him, Nathan West (Michael Mraz). Nathan or should I say Dr. West… recognizes Joe from his first movie, a Lovecraftian number, about a town called Dunwich. They hit it off and make plans to meet up after the holidays. Unfortunately those plans are about to be derailed.

Fortunately Joe steps off the train just before it leaves the station. For the remainder rest of the story Joe, his family, and the cops are filled with questions. Aside from the pressing “why am I alive” he must wrestle with Nathan’s ghost, the mystery of Nathan’s life and lies. Worse still, Joe seems to be coming down with a mysterious aliment, his sight is failing him. Eventually Joe comes to terms with what has happened, and his new place in life. I’ll leave his new path a mystery for y’all to figure out in person.

As The Filmmaker’s Mystery draws to a close Mister Mystery returns, acting again as the conductor. This time he is waiting on West. His final destination? Let’s just say it’s a south bound train. As the train pulls out of the station, and out of sight Joe is left behind to start his new life, and we are left to continue our journey with Mister Mystery.

MYST PL photo 2In Ghost Children, Abby Gilley (Devereau Chumarau) the lawyer, and ex-girlfriend of Joe travels home to Oregon, to wrestle with the ghosts of her past. These ghosts are made manifest by her brother Ben Gilley (Alex Taber) seeking her help. He needs her to serve as a character witness, so he can get out of jail. It’s been some 15 years since Ben killed their parents, and younger sister.

Abby’s journey begins on a plane ride, cross country. The use of a plane, train, and an automobile in the Mystery Plays hints at the journey through life we all take. Sometimes it’s planned out like the rails of a train, other times it’s like the back roads a car may take, random and uncertain. As her journey continues toward her brother, a shadow journey progresses. A shadow path through her past, moving closer to the event that would color her perception of the world. The death of her family, and the realization of her role in those events.

If The Filmmaker’s Mystery deals with ephemeral questions, and the supernatural, Ghost Children feels closer to our side of the veil. The turmoil Abby feels more tangible to the audience. Where Joe’s story ended in finality, Abby’s story ends indeterminately. Will she be able to forgive her brother, or herself? Would we be able to forgive ourselves for any wrongs we have wrought in our lives?

Mystery Plays uses a small cast, yet seems quite large in scope. This is due to the talented actors. Take Frank Blocker, a master of multiple personalities. His narrator Mister Mystery while a conductor of our journey is completely different from his roll as a Conductor on Joe’s trains. As the Caretaker of the cemetery, you feel the weight of age upon his shoulders as he moves. Laura Julian portrays a couple of matronly figures, yet each one stands apart. Michael Mraz plays a convincing serial killer in the first Act, and a life worn, yet caring chauffeur in act two. Daniel Jimenez plays the nervous life traveler unable to control the path of his life, but with the courage to question “why” none the less. Devereau Chumarau moves from sister, to wife and leading lady seamlessly. Her portrayal of Abby was brilliant, she left everything on stage including the pulp remnant of her heart. Her conviction as Abby was profound.MYST PL photo 5

The Mystery Plays uses the magic of winter to pose some uncomfortable questions. These questions need to be examined. Why does anything happen, do we control our destiny, if so can we forgive ourselves when the fault lies upon us? While most think of the holidays as a time for unbridled celebration, the dark nights offer a chance for introspection. Seeing such questions tackled on stage gives us leave to ask the same questions in our own lives. Or not, they could just be the premise of a great stage production.

The Mystery Plays by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, directed by Christopher Basile runs through January 5th at The Lex.

For more information please visit www.thevisceralcompany.com

 

All Photos credit Jeremy Andorfer

A candle in winter

ASTROGLYDE_2013_at_Zombie_Joes_Underground_Theater_518Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre once again proves they are quite talented at vignettes, particularly monologues. Astroglyde is a yearly tradition at Zombie Joe’s. In it we take a brief glimpse at the lives of some thoroughly depressing people. Through all this depression each piece has a tiny flicker of hope.

Each piece, written and preformed by the actor, stands alone. The pieces are conceived and written in isolation from one another, yet they fit together as if pieces of a grand mural. Each piece is a scene from the life of one person. A thoroughly depressing person at that. Some stories are told in hindsight, others are the one sided responses of what is clearly a dialogue.

Whichever route the actors take they manage something remarkably hard. In 6-8 minuets they pull you into the lives of a stranger, and then make you care for a bundle of dysfunction. By the end of each vignette you either see hope through them, or hope there is a chance for a better life at the end of their struggles. A few laughs are thrown in along the way as well. Take Remember my Name Written/preformed by Ann Hurd, and Directed by Roger K. Weiss. While discussing the bedroom issues of her husband she brings up the fact that her husband requires her to wear a Chewbacca mask while he yells “Spank me Chewie or we’ll never get to Alderian.”. The mental image this brings to mind will be forever ingrained in my imagination.

Without giving away too much of each performance, I would like to point out some things that stuck with me. Be warned that I’ll be discussing the contents of 6-8 minute stories.

IMG_1606In Remember my Name by Ann Hurd, and Directed by Roger K. Weiss, Ann is giving an interview, perhaps the most important interview of her life. It appears to be a psychiatric interview. What stuck with me about this performance is how easily Ann transitioned from dead serious to crazy, and then funny before going back to serious. Throughout the story she has the honest belief she will appear on broadway and we will remember her name.

In Morning Jo by Courtney Bandeko, directed by Alex Walters, Jo is attending an anonymous meeting. She is trying to overcome her many issues, while speaking about hopes for the future. At times you get the feeling that she is jonesing for whatever vice brought her here. Followed quickly by a look of such profound innocence you wonder how she could have ever had any vices.IMG_1608

Whistling for Goats by Olga O’Farrell, directed by Denise Devin follows the story of a female convict in the final rounds of the world whistling competition. She is full of nerves and cursing her cell mate, she is doing this all for her. If she wins the competition the warden’s wife will be happy, if the warden’s wife is happy he will be happy, and make some concessions for the inmates. All of her nerves are exasperated by the fact that the warden’s wife has her dressed up in a silly formal gown. Olga plays the part of an anxious person quite well, you feel her frustration building on the air through her monologue.

IMG_1620Rock Bottom by Caitlin Carleton, directed by Adam Neubauer shows the story of a woman sneaking out of a one night stand’s house. How dare he accuse her of stealing his stuff, let alone using his own backpack to do it. What follows is the recent life story of someone spiraling down. The lights go out just before she smacks into that hard rock bottom. At least you’re left hoping it’s the bottom, once there she could only go up.

The Monster in Me by Chelsea Rose, directed by Adam Neubauer is a thoroughly confusing mess whose light shows a dark and twisted place. One thing is clear, Chelsea is held captive. Is she a captive of some outside entity, or her own mind is the question at hand. Throughout the monologue her voice changes, as if she is addressing herself. It’s clear loathing is involved, but does she loath her captor, or herself…

Nightmare by Frannie Morrison, directed by Zombie Joe, is to me the most disturbing number of the night. Part of this is owed to the supurb direction of Zombie Joe, he is adept at making sure actors use their whole body in their performance to paint a picture. The other part, comes from Frannie’s writing. After talking to her, it turns out the Nightmare in question is one she had from her youth. There were a few times during this performance where I shuddered. I’ll leave this Nightmare for y’all to discover.IMG_1628

15 by Jahel Corban Caldera, directed by Nicole Fabbri, is a look at the life of an individual in need of some comforting. Unfortunately he only finds the un-comfort knowledge offers, not all wisdom brings comfort after all. Throughout his journey he finds himself drawn to the attractions of his neighbor, only to see himself reflected in her eyes. Those beautiful eyes that act as mirrors onto his dark soul, and so the 15th person he lets into his life is forcibly removed.

IMG_1637Pitch by Cimcie Nichols, directed by Leif La Duke, is a funny twist on the infomercial pitch business. Cimice is pitching herself, the wonders and changes she can bring to your life. Lose weight instantly, have the confidence to show up late to work, or not at all. Never worry about dealing with annoying family members again. If you’re really up for a party her friends Afghan Brown, and Mexican Tar will join in. This vignette is full of jokes that poke fun at our consumer nature, and how easily that which is wrong for us can be pitched to us in a positive way. The hope that we can fill the hole in our souls permeates this piece.

Tsunami by Ellen Burr, directed by Zombie Joe once again shows Zombie’s skill at physical direction, as well as Ellen’s ability to convey a story through mostly pantomime. This performance while containing dialogue, is mostly physical, with a mix of sound. Ellen begins her journey on the beach, only to see the tide going out, very far out, very fast. Then the ocean returns, and carries with it Ellen. Through a wash and tangle of debris we follow what remains of her journey inland with the torrent of water. In the end we see the night sky through her eyes as she sees all the stars while drifting off.

Not Your Style by Anne Westcott, directed by Sebastian Munoz, touches on a modern phenomenon, speed dating. Anne is attending a costumed speed dating night, as a princess. Just before each prospective suitor arrives she makes sure to look as prim and proper as a princess should be. Each date lasts less than 90 seconds, with her and the bachelor each pitching themselves as fast as possible. As the night progresses Anne becomes more and more honest, and less the perfect princess. Ending with the hope of “oh fuck it” that if she is honest maybe she will score a second date.IMG_1647

Astroglyde 2013 imparts a great lesson in the dark of winter. No matter how dark and cold the nights get, you can alwayse find a flicker of hope. Whether you nourish that flicker is up to you.

Astroglyde 2013 runs Fridays December 6th thorugh 20th at Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre.

For more information please visit www.zombiejoes.com

Hold Your Breath!

UD2If you aren’t cheating you aren’t trying hard enough. I cheated at the Urban Death Tour of Terror and still fell over in fear. I’m a veteran audience member of Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre Group, I cut my teeth writing my first review on a showing of Urban Death. I was still unprepared for the labyrinth of fear they designed.

Urban Death Tour of Terror is a haunted maze, and a play! You begin with a flashlight intentionally taped up to make it almost useless. Then you make your way through a maze. This isn’t the cheap thrills maze where things pop up to startle you. This is a macabre nightmare designed to make you feel uneasy. The walkway is narrow as can be, adding a layer of claustrophobia to the experience. Try as you might you can’t sweep the flashlight around fast enough to keep track of all that goes around you.

After the maze you make your way to the stage proper, a solid black room with police tape along the floor. Don’t cross the tape, lest you vanish forever. The Play portion of the Tour of Terror runs approximately 15 minutes, and is composed of several vignettes. Each as disturbing as the previous. It covers the themes of Urban Death. That is all the ways you can die in an urban landscape, sometimes you can die and still live…

The fine folks at Zombie Joe’s specialize in the macabre, they put all their expertise together for this performance. Tour of Terror is so much more than a haunted maze. Anyone can put a maze together. When you bring a talented group of thespians who devote their craft to the more charnel aspects of theatre; you wind up with something far greater than a haunted maze. You wind up bringing fear to life, make it palpable.

The maze and the stage play resonate with each other. Creating the effect of purgatory, rather than hell. Purgatory can be far worse than hell, as the good and damned suffer there. I could go on, but I won’t. Urban Death Tour of Terror is something to be experienced for yourself. I don’t want to spoil the shocks you will receive. I will say this, brace yourself against your wildest nightmares, they might just come to life.

Urban Death Tour of Terror Haunted Theatre Attraction! (directed by Zombie Joe and Jana Wimer) runs Friday and Saturday through November 2nd.

For more information please visit:

www.zombiejoes.com

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