Reviewed by Lovell Estell III
Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre
Through December 18
One thing about the folks at Zombie Joe’s Underground Theater is that they never seem to run out of bold inventive ways to reinvent the classics. They’ve mined the works of Fyodor Dostoevsky, Lewis Carroll and Edgar Allan Poe with considerable success in the past, and now, once again, provide their take on one of the pillars of the Shakespeare canon.
All the essential threads of the story are there (the storm, the shipwreck, the stranded visitors), but this “dark sci-fi adaptation” casts Prospero (nice turn by Bert Emmet), the magus of the island, as a rather unhinged temperamental sort, who readily controls and punishes those who cross him with a zap from his power-charged glove (and he likes it!). The half-man creature Caliban (Jonica Patella) “that dull thing,” and Prospero’s loyal spirit servant Ariel (Elif Savas, who can really sing), are given their just due in director Jana Wimer’s adaptation, which features a silvery android (Mark Dakota) in the role of Gonzalo, adviser to King Alonso (Earnest Kearney).
Central to the tale, of course, is the romance between Ferdinand (Stage Raw’s Vanessa Cate) and Prospero’s daughter Miranda (Alex Kereszti), which adds a necessary dollop of the emotional to what is a somewhat dry wisp of a production. The finale does offer some shocking surprises, so don’t anticipate any happy endings here.
Though not as balanced, satisfying or delightfully in-your-face unsettling as some of ZJU’s past efforts, this Tempest is entertaining, and Wimer cleverly marshals her cast of ten around the small stage. The show is also pleasantly atmospheric, due in large measure to Hans Fjellestad’s enchanting music and Michael Maio and Wimer’s sound design. Ashley Gallup’s costumes hit the mark, and the performances are uniformly good.
Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri., 8:30 p.m., Sun., 7:00 p.m;, through December 18. (818) 202-4120. Running time: One hour.