Reviewed by Lara J. Altunian
Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre Group
Through February 17
Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre dives into a night of hells and horrors with a post-apocalyptic show that combines survival and mutation in a sci-fi world with spiritual evil and corruption. The diverse cast makes use of every last inch of space within ZJU’s tiny venue and pushes writer/director Shayne Eastin’s levels of creepiness and fun to the very limit.
Satan (Jason Britt), or the Dark Prince as he is called throughout the play, inherits what has become a land of waste and emptiness that leaves him feeling equally hollow. From his high perch above the stage, he watches a “family” of strange misfits wander the desert together, as they look for a doctor (David Dickens), who picks apart the characters’ strange states of mind. Each member is thoroughly affected by radiation in ways that range from scratching off boils on their skin — as the anxious Itchy (Nick D’Alberto) constantly does to gross out the viewers — to exhibiting psychic abilities that advance the story, like those of clairvoyant Radar (Skye LaFontaine). Their “mother” (Caiti Wiggins) is a humanoid cyborg with a glowing internal light that serves as a promising antidote to the Devil’s domination of Earth’s remains, and doubles as a mysterious power source containing unknown potential not fully revealed until the very end.
ZJU’s shoebox-sized space is full of hidden doors and windows the actors seamlessly flow in and out of, adding to the dim room’s dark ambiance. The mood is enhanced by a whirlwind narrative that switches back and forth among Satan and his high-pitched assistant Squeak (Anes Hasi), the family, the doctor and two tango-dancing lovers (Daniel Palma and Alyssa Weldon). The purpose of these ballroom aficionados is never fully made clear, but their presence adds to the zaniness that keeps the audience laughing throughout. That’s especially true as their pas de deux becomes more lustful, and PoPalypt1c gleefully dives into an exploration of primal needs that manifest in racy scenes of masturbation and sexual longing.
Overall, the show is kooky and exciting, with plenty of commentary on humanity’s differences and desires, and a warning to look past what may seem obvious or convenient. Eccentricities and bold choices fill up the hour nicely.
Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; through Feb. 17. (918) 202-4120 or http://zombiejoes.tix.com/. Running time: 60 minutes with no intermission.