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Beautiful Illusions

December 8, 2016

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…


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

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