ensemble theatre · zombie joe's underground theatre group · Ages 12+ · United States

world premiere
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June 25, 2014 artsbeat la original article

My overall impression

Reviewed by Pauline Adamek *This review first appeared on*

A guy named Kevin (musician Kevin Van Cott) pounds away at a drum kit while a writhing ball of cast members moan and gyrate manically like a nest of vipers. And that’s pretty much it for an excruciating 35 minutes that feels like an eternity. “Nightmaricomio” is a lazy mash-up of two previous ZJU shows, “Manicomio” and “Nightmares.”

As we enter a small theater with all its seats removed, we see the cast in action. The men are clad in shredded zombie-like rags while the women are wearing tight, stripy aerobics wear and bras. All have their faces painted with lightning bolts and geometric designs much like the Kiss Army fan club.

Striving to be an experimental theatrical labyrinth of interwoven lives, flashbacks, dreams and apparitions haunting a dark asylum, the production plays out like an exploratory acting class. At one point the knot of actors breaks apart and they all gambol about the space, shrieking, barking, howling and drooling. Dialogue is sparse. Three times Kevin loses his cool and wants to leave, but he is talked out of it by the others. One actor spouts lines from Shakespeare’s “Troilus and Cressida” while later another seems to be sharing notations from her private journal. One mesmerizing if headache-inducing segment is an extended drum solo in pitch darkness, illuminated by Kevin’s blue glowing drumsticks.

While Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre Group has performed in New York and South Africa, they haven’t ventured anywhere else in Los Angeles besides their tiny black box digs in NoHo. By rights, this first Fringe show should serve as a showcase for their special brand of Grand Guignol live comedy/horror. Instead, it’s just random snippets of macabre nonsense. Rather than attracting a wider fan base, unfortunately this train-wreck of a show may ensure theater-goers stay away in droves.—Pauline Adamek

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