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A candle in winter

December 15, 2013

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.

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