Reviewed by Deborah Klugman
ZJU Theatre Group
Through May 9
Witch balls played a part in people’s lives in 17th and 18th century Britain and America. Historically they were benevolent objects, placed in windows or on the mantle to ward off evil spirits.
But in Zombie Joe’s free-flowing fantastical narrative, one such sphere has absorbed so many evil spirits that its possession wreaks havoc and suffering on animals and humans alike.
Three narrators (Deidre Anderson, Michael James Luckins and Nicole Sahagian) alternate in recounting the passing of this pernicious object from one person to the next. Another seven capriciously costumed and made-up performers play out the multiple scenarios the story encompasses.
The narrative begins in the Carpathian mountains, then rambles from place to place, touching down, among other locales, in Salem, Massachusetts and the American Southwest. It moves swiftly so there’s no character development to speak of. The main point of the piece seems to be expressing a childlike glee in the possibility of demons or malevolent forces impinging on our lives. There’s one neatly choreographed number (choreography by Denise Devin), but otherwise the performers randomly gambol about the small, spare venue. When depicting animals or dead or sick people, they maneuver about on the floor as well.
Some of these players are woefully lacking in skills while the talents of others are obscured by either the material or its frenzied delivery. This company’s work is a favorite for some folks, but if your imagination doesn’t trend to tales from the dark side and/or if you’re not much on grim fairy tales, it probably isn’t for you.
For this reviewer, the pre-show music by Kevin McLeod, Kagham Kalhour and Robert Rodriguez is the most interesting part of the spectacle.
Roger K. Weiss and Nancy Woods direct.
ZJU THEATRE GROUP, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Sat. 8:30 pm, through May 9. 818-202-4120, ZombieJoes.Tix.com