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Whimsy & Wine

Miss Cate has chosen a deliciously dark & enchantingly enthralling venue to display the hypnotic dance skills of her talented girls.

Upon entering The Vampire Lounge & tasting room, I was fortunate enough to spy the lovely Miss Cate entertaining guests at the bar, one of her girls, coat cloaked, came up to her and spoke with her. As Miss Cate smiled and laughed I was overtaken with the impression the Vampire Lounge materialized around her, and the lovely ladies of Cabaret le Fey. Such is the tone set by the alchemical concoction catalyzed by the perfect sound accompaniment, picked to enhance the night by Vanessa Cate.

The world needs whimsy & beauty; kicking off 2017 with a David Bowie inspired cabaret is a great way to raise the whimsy to eleven.

Everything about the night blended together into a fine evening out, and a better Thursday night in winter I can’t think than wine and talented women dancing beautifully. I began with an obligatory red wine, Miss Cate having told me I could put my fate in the hands of the sommelier, and proceeded upstairs again on the recommendation of Miss Cate. As the leader of Cabaret le Fey, she knows her venue well. There were box seats pushed up next to the railing giving a balcony view akin to a theatre purpose built for cabaret.

If you want to be closer to the action, the bar is the perfect place, the dancers are as close as life with the stage being a perfectly framed corner, the dancers tantalizing & teasing the passersby through a large pane window. Set in the corner wall from the window is a gorgeous mirror affording a second angle of the dark angels tempting our more interesting thoughts to the surface.

The whole evening as I said was accompanied by music picked purposefully by Miss Cate to drive our emotions forward through the theme of the evening, which mirrored 2016 using David Bowie and the roller coaster of the past year. The dancers drew us visually through the sway of rise and fall, fast and slow. As if the music and dancing weren’t magick enough Miss Cate admitted that she used the darkest sorcery to fog up the window for the first time ever, or at least during a show. She was forced to admit her witchery after I’d commented that the venue seemed to further evolve its enchantments.

I look forward to the next bi-monthly installment of Cabaret le Fey, with rumors of vampires flitting through the Vampire lounge, I hope to position myself across the mirror at the bar. I’ll need to closely see if the dancers gracing the stage have reflections or not.

If you’re looking to do something fun, eclectic and witness something stunningly beautiful, you should consider stopping by Cabaret le Fey, every other week on Thursdays. It’s the perfect week night relaxing entertainment.

 

Cabaret le Fey runs every other Thursday at Vampire Lounge & tasting room from 9p to 12a

For more information please visit:

https://www.facebook.com/cabaretlefey/

and

Cabaret le Fey

and

https://www.vampire.com/vampiretastingroom/

*Warning* Respitory Distress

diehard_sqA wisp of startled breath tickled a grin unto my face moments after curtain, a smile that didn’t go away until I woke for work the following day.

*Warning* *Health Advisory* A Very Die Hard Christmas is the funniest Christmas musical I’ve seen. Multiple times throughout I was silently gasping for breath, unable to stop laughing. I can’t even be coy with the start of this review, simply overt and direct. Go buy your tickets, Link, I’ll wait. Good, now back to the review…

Theatre Unleashed distilled the essence of the Holiday movie/special: concentrated it, then added their biting wit and sarcastic regard for modern social politeness, damn good improve, covered it all in holiday magic and laughter. The entire audience was laughing from start to finish, to the point where I knew several unique laughter styles. Feeling the entire audience laughing along with you, it was impossible not to be moved into feeling magic was real.

The improve and interaction with the audience… if the acting, direction, and lyrics hadn’t been among the best comedy I’ve seen, the immersive pulled in feeling from the fourth wall breaches would have made this show amazing. Sarcastic asides, hinted inside jokes, this feeling of being in the know. The audience wasn’t just watching, they were experiencing, and we were invited to be along for the ride.

Though never directly opposed Robby DeVillex and Josef Knauber were dueling for ownership of the stage. Separate categories though; Josef owned the stage through the strength of his sarcastically dark portrayal of Hans Gruber. Robby was the everyman, five of them to be precise, two of them anthropomorphized puppets. Each character was perfectly delineated, even when bouncing between three characters in one scene. You’re left wondering if Robby did some dark ritual to channel Dead Pool with his improvisation and fourth wall sundering (thanks for the ultra close air kiss darlin’).

Wade F. Wilson, you need to be cast in the eventual reboot, Demand Gregory Crafts be part of it, because a dark comedy take of Die Hard needs to be a thing the world sees.

You have to see A Very Die Hard Christmas, the only thing I could do here is poorly relate the grandeur and joy I felt literally through the night until the following morning and through work even. Every aspect of the show: the wit, songs, satire, improvisation, set use and direction, every single aspect was on point. All building to an ending that felt like Christmas magic was happening on stage.

A Very Die Hard Christmas is up there with memories of watching Die Hard with Pa at Christmas, I felt like he was there with me, and like he would have laughed with me the whole way though.

That’s the Christmas Magic I felt and I’ve been avoiding writing for a week because of how powerful that was, and what I’m going through in my life. I’m sorry for the delay in this review, but thank you, because I’ve felt like my Pa was back with me this last week and I needed that more than any other time.

I know that last paragraph isn’t entirely professional, but this show was powerful and brought Christmas Magic to life to someone who game up on Christmas Magic long ago. The Theatre is powerful, and this time it really got to me…

Beautiful Illusions

thetempestzju_postcardZombie Joe’s starts the audience on their ear’s and whisks them away from there in this Dark Sci-fi take on The Tempest.

Opening upon a starship bridge in distress any one could tell this won’t be an average night of Shakespeare; any regular to Zombie Joe’s knows they’re in for an above average off the, black, wall Shakespeare experience.

Jana Wimer (director) must have found some long forgotten weave of spell in the text; the transition from clear Mediterranean blue to the endless night sky was seamless and beautifully executed. Using her magics, and cast, three separate plots weave in and out, moving you from scene to scene at the right time, building then carrying the audience’s emotions and rapt attention along the way.

The starkly visible, and beautifully executed, change in setting & tone serve to highlight just how good a Shakespeare company ZJU is. It’s easy to lose things in the watching when you are familiar with them, you can’t do that with this version of The Tempest. It’s too good not to watch entirely enthralled, the alien setting, in the hands of Jana’s cast, becomes normalized in that surreal way where the more you change something the more it becomes the same. Shakespeare is infinitely adaptable because he captures an essence of humanity in his works. Jana has shown that she can reflect that essence back through varied prisms and filters. Like so many beautiful illusions, I wonder what she’ll produce next.

thetempestzju_photo-2Speaking of illusions, shine a rainbow on Miss Vanessa Cate and Ferdinand becomes gender bent, deliciously gender bent. The moment Ferdinand is alone on the shores of some alien world, you can tell Miss Cate is enjoying her role entirely. A performer has this energy when they really like a role, and without words, body language alone you can tell this is one of those roles. The whole cast had this palpable energy, a weight upon the senses. It makes it easy to become lost in their spell.

Jonica Patella as Caliban with Stephano played by Jason Britt made me want to see the misadventures of Caliban and Stephano. The longer they are on stage together, the more I wanted to see what was going to happen with them. Jason plays rogues and those who walk the left handed paths as if he’s a villainous rogue by day it seems. The puckish energy Jonica brought, had this gleeful retributive merriment in Caliban’s motives, simply fun to watch.

The show is dotted with these sci-fi pop culture references and allusions, as a nerd, it’s as close to total sci-fi fan service as you can get. Elif Savas as Ariel has my favorite sci-fi reference, which I won’t give away, but it is beautiful to the ear. Elif also rounds out the trio of actresses who simply blew me away scene after scene. Vanessa, Jonica, and Elif’s performances are breathtaking, and powerful. These three ladies impart a physical presence to The Tempest; the stage and house lifted from the globe by their energies.thetempestzju_photo-1

I have been slowly returning to the theatre after being away, and The Tempest was a great night out, I smiled the whole way home thinking of what unfolded on stage. Only Zombie Joe’s can have an ending leaving me silent at first, waiting for other patrons and critics to confirm the different ending. The problem, I liked it so much, and had been led there with perfectly built suspense, I doubted my own memory as to whether or not that was supposed to happen. There was a temporary spanner in my memory works, placed no doubt by Jana using one of Prospero’s tools of illusion…

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The Tempest runs Fri @8:30 & Sun @7pm through Dec. 18th at Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre in North Hollywood.

For more information please visit http://www.zombiejoes.com

Beautiful Black Chanterelle (Hex is a…)

14344142_1801091163481814_796930542879132812_nOn Lankershim Blvd, in macabre haven Hex (Directed by Vanessa Cate) summons up The Sacred Feminine; in a gravity stripping rite full of such sensual beauty, and grace as to be reminiscent of the ancient workings which must have inspired the spirit of the Babylon Working.

Vanessa leads a power Coven of goddesses, bespelling the audience from the start. Vanessa’s Hex is an intricate weave too, and one I will right now recommend you see more than once if you hope to unravel all of the beautiful layers of this living tapestry.

Though enthralled myself, I’ll try not to spoil the story. More in hopes that I won’t do an injustice to the depth of the overarching threads which weave through Hex.

Hex is a soaring emotional journey of all that is woman, as seen through the lenses of the Wicca, feminism, sexuality, expression, and art of all forms. Hex shows it all, our highs and lows, our sorrows and joys. The journey we travel as the stage becomes all that is real, would not be possible without the immensely talented performances of the entire Coven.

For some time Vanessa has been experimenting with expressing defining the boundaries and whole sum of feminine power and mystique through the power of the stage. Hex pushes this overarching theme in her carrier further than ever. Vanessa has honed a talent for showing her goddesses their inner beauty and strength, and then she shapes this glorious palate on stage painting wonderful and complex emotions.

The entire Coven radiated immense inner power and beauty, which backlit their talents on stage. With each Coven member gracefully moving on stage, emotions mixed and swirled. There is magick at Zombie Joe’s Underground this Samhain season.

With the Coven as the emotional pigments a beautiful black chanterelle of vignettes is presented to the audience. Old Crones can take an argument over a potion into a deep discussion on body and sex shaming, wonderfully blending the old world lexicon with modern issues, puns, quips and burns. The whimsical mixing of modernity into scenes in times long forgotten gives a strong touch stone for the audience to connect with, allowing the Coven to continue pulling the audience along.

Dynamically evoked raw emotional wisdom, over definitive knowledge; that is how you Hex conveys deeper meanings than words ever could. Much like how an artist doesn’t need words to describe the world they show us. While under the enchantment of Hex, the audience flows with the scenes feeling the story. How many different interpretations could one listen from the audience, after a show where a feral coven of werewolves vying for leadership give way into a Sapphic Werewolf Cabaret seduction scene reminiscent of the Paris Coven in Interview with the Vampire.

Hex is full of deep, dark sensual beauty, shown perfectly in their rendition of The Raven. I’ve read Poe since I was three or four. I’ve never seen The Raven so transformed in my eyes before. The power portrayed by the characters… The Raven is one of the scenes I look forward to seeing again the most. I won’t spoil it, you have to see Hex for yourself.

As the show comes to its denouement, the last threads of Hex resolved, you may see that the wheel keeps turning. Though there are many darker elements to Hex, that is true with life. The wheel keeps turning, highs and lows. Hex unites us though. It shows us that through all the ages, women weren’t just there and surviving, we were living, loving, and enjoying life.

Due to the fluid nature of Hex, I was unable to spotlight any single actresses by name, however I would like to highlight a few pieces which stood out largely due to the Coven members. The Raven, was breathtaking as I said above, the Speaker and the Raven have such chemistry. In the werewolf cabaret scene the dancing, the energy, the teasing sensuality… Then, there was a goddess scene, with Hecate and all the goddesses, the power in that scene.

The entire show I felt like my soul was drawn onto the stage with the most talented ensemble I’ve seen in a fluid performance piece. Each and every Coven member showed us their still beating hearts on stage, and did it with grace and power.

Hex (directed by Vanessa Cate) a True Focus Theater & Cabaret le Fey production, shows at Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre in North Hollywood Tuesday nights at 10pm through October 25th.

For more information please visit http://www.TrueFocusTheater.com

The Coven:

Cheryl Doyle, Caitilin Fowler, Deneen Melody, Marietta Melrose, Kat Nelson-Bergfeld, Alariza Nevarez, Emma Pauly, Sasha Snow Ashley J. Woods, with Vanessa Cate

 

 

The Corpses Come Out at Night.

AttackOfTheRottingCorpses2015@ZJU_PostcardZombie Joe’s Underground Theatre does zombies right! In this second staging I’ve seen of Attack of the Rotting Corpses you’ll be jumping with laughter and fear.

This time round Josh T. Ryan (director) bends the story round our funny bones, adding his unique musical fourth wall asides to the story. Josh is great with skirting that fourth wall, pairing an excellent music selection with brilliant stage direction. Rotting Corpses is still a horror story, that core holds true. What Josh does however is add a lighthearted feel to it, akin to Sean of the Dead, and Evil Dead. Only far better, more visceral, there is realness to this lighthearted nature, not forced like the movies.

The characters have a vital energy, a spark of life, this is something Josh is excels at as a director. Josh brings characters to life through his cast, like a necromancer. For a story about zombies, it’s a very lively cast. You can tell when a cast enjoys their roles, and the story at large, there is an energy in their performance.AttackOfTheRottingCorpses2015@ZJU_PHOTO-2a

The core story is the same, yet the cast puts an entirely different spin on it. There is a bromance between Vic (Josh T. Ryan) and Mack (Tyler Koster). Tyler gives Mack a nervous energy that draws you in, compels you to feel sorry for the poor guy. Perhapse I should start from the beginning. Rotting Corpses takes place in a luxury, full concierge town house complex, that has the misfortune of being the center of a zombie outbreak. The use of such a narrow setting, allows the story to center on the characters, and there are characters. Mack’s story draws us forward, but it’s his interactions with the guests of the luxury condos show us the walls society has developed. What happens when the social niceties are removed, when the artificial constructs that hold back our raw primal natures? From the onset of Rotting Corpses these walls are crumbling, what happens when a zombie plague tears the last bricks down?

Liz (Vanessa Cate) shows what happens when lust is let loose. Every time Liz comes into scene a sexy rock score plays, marking her character as unique within the story. Of all the zombies, Liz has the most control, she’s not ravenous for flesh, well flesh of a different kind maybe. Doug (Davin Wyn Harris) shows both gluttony and sloth, living in a luxury condo he lives off the cheapest food, and dresses in disposable underwear. Doug goes for quantity over quality. The full range of vices and sins are represented in Rotting Corpses, but I’m not here to spoil your adventure. I truly wish I the space to talk about every member of this amazing cast, but my review would grow long in the tooth. Suffice to say, this cast is amazing, every member adds to the sum total.

I’ve talked about the humour in this version, Josh uses musical cues and fourth wall asides to bring humour into the story. It’s still very much a horror story, a B movie come to life, pulling you back to your childhood watching late night monster flicks. The tone is dark and red, excellent lighting cues, sensual with enough bite to make your breath catch once or twice. It’s not all scares and jumps, there is gore too, well done stomach squirming visceral scenes. Attack of the Rotting Corpses is not for the faint of heart, yet well worth it for those with a steely spine. It’s the perfect Halloween season horror show to go see. Worth seeing more than once, as I’ve heard tell some of the characters will change their archetype, and the cast will shuffle around, keeping the performance fresh for a long Halloween run.

Attack of the Rotting Corpses (Written by Zombie Joe, Directed by Josh T. Ryan) runs Sundays at 7:30 through November 1st at Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre.

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For more information please visit: www.zombiejoes.com

To see a more story oriented review, my review of the last staging can be found here: https://spencercotter.wordpress.com/2013/05/30/trapped-in-a-zombie-movie/

Fangs, Blood, and Song

The_Red_Moon_560-74Bring your fangs, leathers, and blood; Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre offers a sultry, shadowy, bloody, and humourous musical with The Red Moon (Directed by Denise Devin). The Red Moon is a love story, after a fashion; love being more than romantic love more often than naught.

The Red Moon reaches beyond the typical vampire story, and the typical musical. As a musical it comes very close to pushing into the realm of Rock Operas, the lyrics directed more to the other characters than the audience. Pouring their emotions into song to reach through the layers built up by others. As a vampire story, it’s not strictly about good vs. evil, or human vs inhuman. Each character has complex emotions, desires and needs. As a romance it adds changes the nature of the third wheel. It’s not a human that must choose between two monsters. It’s lust vs love, and the monster gets to make the choice.

Lauri (Nicole A. Craig), whose voice rang clear and beautifully, narrates her tale of sisterly love, blood and death. Using a mix of classic rock with original pieces the characters and Brian Felsen (Pianist) built tactile layers of music and emotion. As the story progresses; the music and lyrics build, growing; desperation, sorrow, rage, lust, fear, binds together in a sensual veil of pain and pleasure.TheRedMoon@ZJU_CAST-PHOTO-1

The Red Moon is captivating from start to finish, but there are a couple of things that bear pointing out. The singing is spot on save one thing. In a packed house, a brilliant opening night, it is hard to hear all of the lyrics. The songs require softness, sensuality, yet without projecting their voices it is sometimes hard to be seduced by the scene. The Red Moon could also use a slightly longer run time; to lengthen a few of the scenes, adding a slower build to the story, reaching the climax as drawn in as possible.

Throughout the themes of love and lust are repeated in The Red Moon. Can a Roxana (Lara Lihiya) love someone, or being the seductress can she only lust after them? Is love enough to cure Roxana? There are many questions you may find yourself asking as the story unfolds, will the answers satisfy you, or leave you longing for more? You’ll have to find out for yourself.

From curtain to curtain Brian Felsen ensnares the emotions unfolding on stage, wrapping them upon themselves, redoubling the heightened feelings. A musical is nothing without its music, and Ramon Sanchez (Playwright, Composer, Lyricist) put together a brooding sensual composition. The lyrics drip with emotion, the accompanying instrumentals wash away reality; only the moods conceived on stage and in music exist. It’s entrancing; you’ll be pulled into the story so deeply you’ll forget yourself. The opening cords of the piano tell you you’re in for an ephemeral ride, the singing which follows, delivers.TheRedMoon@ZJU_PHOTO-1

Roxana and Lauri have a few numbers together, including a well done duet. There is the familiar two persons singing about the other, but not in their presence. Red Moon uses a different palate of emotions to put a compelling twist however. Love is a shade, only slightly different. It’s familial love, the love between two sisters, which includes great depth: jealousy, anger, concern, fear. Each of the main characters has their solo. Anthony (Jason Britt) captures rage, lust, confusion, and what might be genuine love in his number. While Roxana and Lauri try to work through the troubles they’ve each gotten into. The Minister (Paul Carpenter) struggles with lusts, and sins of the past. The vampiric numbers are especially seductive. Whether hunting, courting one another, or venting their more raw emotions, there is a seductive pull to each of these numbers. These numbers are rounded out by the rest of the ensemble, including a few comical chorus replies.

The Red Moon is a dark, sensuous, and emotionally turbulent way to start off the fall season.

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The Red Moon (Written and composed by Ramon Sanchez; Directed by Denise Devin) runs at Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre in North Hollywood, Fridays and Saturdays 830pm September 4 through 26.

All Photo Credit: Zombie Joe

For more information please visit:

www.zombiejoes.com

 

 

 

Tune in for laughs

LonelyAtTheTop@ZJU_PostcardBestAndy Shultz (writer/director) has put radio waves to paper, script that is. Lonely at the Top is the perfect distillation of the radio dramas I grew up with. Andy throws in several tongue in cheek, we can’t take ourselves too seriously now moments.

Above all you can tell Andy and Wyn Harris (director) did their homework. Lonely at the Top feels like an honest to goodness radio drama, or at least a send up of the most iconic attributes of the genre. The only thing missing is the periodic static and signal tuning interference. From the start you’re thrown into the setting, WZJU Host (Doug Haverty) pulls the old fashioned microphone plunging us into a scene straight out of the hardboiled detective serials of old. Channeling that old timey announcer cadence and squawk Doug paints a picture of a true serial. What isn’t painted by narration and dialogue is covered by a faux foley artist, our WZJU Host, on stage. Being live Theatre the faux foley artist shoots more for a visual element, than auditory.

LonelyAtTheTop@ZJU_PHOTO_1Lonely at the Top is a classic detective Serial following Rex Fontana (Adam Neubauer), his secretary Babs Berkowitz (Aling Zhang) and a cast of colorful noir characters. Rex and the assorted players are thrown deep into the dark depths of shady Los Angeles California, where everyone has a story to tell, and every dame with a killer set of gams is just as likely to kill you as the next vice.

Lonely is a classic noir detective serial. An important and thoroughly hated person has been found murdered, and there are more suspects with motive than you can shake an officer’s truncheon at. Speculation and fist cuffs fly as Rex and Police Chief Jordan (Shawn Davis) square off to see who will solve this mystery first. Who will solve the Goldstein murder first, and was it a Mob hit, the Communists, or Aliens from the center of the hollow earth!? How will our bumbling private dick accustomed to succeeding on stubbornness and luck pull this off? With the help of his lovely assistant more than anything else.

Everything about Lonely at the Top makes you feel like you’re listening to a radio drama, from the minimal movement and blocking, to the station breaks and commercials. Yes there are commercials, and they are real too. Period commercials from a bygone era of no regulations are read by announcers between each scene. It’s truly groan worthy hearing these old commercials.

For something like this to come together as well as it does here, everything must be tops. The story has to pull you forward, the pacing set by the director to hook the audience at the right moment, to the acting itself. Everything must flow together. Radio dramas are all about timing, making the audience laugh at the right moments, groan at the next. If the pace is off just a little this won’t work. Everything falls in place with Lonely.

Being that Lonely at the Top is a detective story, and I can’t give away the game, you’ll have to rely on your keen nose and intuition to suss out who the killer/s is. If you have your wits about you, and can see through the 4th wall, you’ll enjoy seeing Rex stumble through the investigation.

There is one difficult thing to deal with while watching Lonely. Which character do you want to have done the deed? Each character is a favorite for their own reasons. Every suspect has a motive, the fun in any detective story is finding those motives out, asking yourself if they are guilty or not. Part of what makes it hard to settle on one suspect; each is portrayed so wrongly, that it’s so right. Was it the rival Director Victor De Lancie (Vincent Miller) and his many secrets, including a frilly pink one? De Lancie certainly is creepy enough, a credit to Miller, to be a killer. There is the oft over worked assistant Mary Spielberg (Casey Ellings), a hard working dame who just wants to Direct movies, and raise her son. Mary and Babs have instant stage chemistry, are they teasing each other or the audience with their double talk. The mob boss is alwayse a good choice for the killer. Don Anthony Rizzotti (David Wyn Harris) is the perfect choice, Hollywood plus a mobster. It’s obvious, or is it too obvious? What does Don Rizzotti know about Goldstein’s death, and what does he know about Roswell while we’re at it? Could it be Mrs. Goldstein (Marilou Rabahi Seaton) herself, that naive wife of a philandering Hollywood Director, or perhapse she teamed up with the sultry Trixie Adams (Margaret Glaccum), Mr. Goldstein’s mistress, or was that stalker.LonelyAtTheTop@ZJU_PHOTO_2

Oh well, I’m sure Rex will figure out what happened to the Aliens at… I mean who killed Mr. Goldstein.

Pressing myself to pick a few choice adjectives to describe Lonely at the Top; gloriously groan worthy, stitch inducing puns. Lonely at the Top is a grand evening spent with your face in your palm. It’s more than just the corny lines, purposely transparent characters, or even the timing of every line. The entirety of Lonely gels together, forming a complete portrayal of classic Americana.

So grab your Tin Foil, for the radio antenna, your trench coat, and a fedora and tune into WZJU. That’s Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre, same macabre theatre, same unusual programming. With any luck, Rex Fontana will haunt the faux radio waves with some sense serial repetition.

Lonely at the Top (Written by Andy Shultz, Directed by Shultz, and David Wyn Harris) airs, I mean runs Friday nights at 8:30pm through August 28th.

For more information please visit: http://www.zombiejoes.com

All Photo Credit:  Andy Shultz