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Poe Resurrected

August 6, 2013

Edgar_Allan_Poes_THE_RAVEN_NEW_FLYER_at_ZJU_500-82Anyone can dim a few lights, put on some creepy music, set a stage for a gothic motif. It’s even easy enough to recite poetry word for word, or attempt to act it out. I’ve seen that countless times, especially with the works of Poe. What I haven’t seen is Poe brought to life, until my recent visit to Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre Group that is.

TheRaven@ZJU_Photo4I recently had the pleasure of attending the final performance of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven, at Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre. They did everything right. The lighting was spot on, choreographed to the tone of each verse. Speaking of the choreography, the interpretive dance for The Oval Portrait was more like an artist painting a Gothic masterpiece. The recitation started out in pitch black, then as each actor spoke they illuminated themselves with a candle (an led which is far dimmer than real candles). Once all the candles were lit the actors spread out on stage moving gracefully, but with purpose. Coming back together as needed. At one point in unison they said “candelabra”, at the same time the arced their candles to one side making the image of a candelabra. It was picturesque.

As the first poem died away the music, preformed live by Christopher Reiner grew louder more verboten. Donna Noelle Ibale remained on stage with a single candle. She began to dance a ballet alone on stage. At times she followed the music, at times the music appeared to follow her. Her dance mirrored the emotion of the music, and the music mirrored her. As she danced she moved the candle around her body in graceful, sensual arcs, twisting this way and that. The candle appeared to have a life of its own, moving separately from her body, but in time to the music and her dance.

The third poem began, the lights went out then a spot light illuminated the curtain. Sebastian Muñoz appeared throw the curtain, his face frozen in a macabre portrait, an eternal scream without sound. Slowly he stepped onto stage, each movement a deliberate, forceful act. The remaining cast joined, each trapped in their own emotion. Some movements fast, some slow, others chaotic. In effect it reminded me of adrenalin. When our adrenalin is pumping the world slows down for us, so we can react faster. To an outsider everything is moving swiftly. To us, everything moves slowly. This is what they showed on stage the deliberate actions of the characters, from their view points, as they ran through emotions. Their speed was commiserate with how they would have perceived the shock and emotions they felt. The slower they were moving, the more intense their world was in that moment. The scene ended with Sebastian turning towards the audience face still locked in horror, eyes wider than before.TheRaven@ZJU_Photo1

You can’t end a rendition of The Raven, without The Raven. The full cast returned to the stage, and each took up a piece of the poem, adding their own voice, and spirit to the reading. Their voices combined with their movements to illustrate the entire poem. The audience need no silly raven puppet to draw our attention, only the voices of the actors. Never knowing which would take up the next line. Not knowing which Gothic face would speak next. It was an amazing performance of The Raven.

Throughout the show, and in between the poems music was provided live by Christopher Reiner. His use of a synthesizer and keyboard set a Gothic tone that let you relax, while keeping you tense at the same time. His musical accompaniment helped elevate the entire performance. This version of The Raven was something you will never see in a college coffee shop with angst 20 something’s. It wasn’t seen, or heard it was felt with the spirit. My world melted away, and I was shocked when it was over. I had forgotten the outside world existed.

Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre never fails to deliver an amazing performance. I only regret the run of The Raven was so short. It deserves a longer run so more can enjoy Poe the way he is meant to be. Not dissected in some classroom, but felt down to our core.


Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven (written by Edgar Allen Poe, produced and directed by Zombie Joe) appeared at Joe’s Underground Theatre in North Hollywood.

For more information on Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre please visit their website. They are constantly pushing the boundries of Black Box Theatre.

*All Photos Credit: Zombie Joe

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