Monday, April 22, 2013

Grimm NIghts Vol.1 (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

Zombie Joe's Underground theater often creates different "series" of theater events, the most famous of which is probably Urban Death. The latest, playing until May 5, 2013, uses Grimm's Fairy Tales as their inspiration. The idea, wickedly and wonderfully simple, centers around re-telling famous stories but in the modern Hollywood.

Herein lies many seasons of possible shows, dependent upon what folks there create from the original.  This time the stories involved include "Little Red Riding Hood" "Hansel and Gretl" "Willfull Child" as well as "Death's Messengers" and "The Devil and His Grandmother." Both quality and style vary quite a bit, but even at their least good (none of the tiny plays qualify as bad or mediocre or even average) all entertain. More, each gets one thinking one way or another.

Photo Credit: Jana Wimer
"Death's Messenger" probably makes for the most grim (heh heh) the vignettes, with its tale of someone meeting none other than Death Herself (yeah, in this case Death is a she), who turns out to be a not very nice person. Given her job, much less her nature, no surprise there! Arguably

the most hilarious must be "Hansel and Gretl" in which a pair of Aryan Twins manage to be as horrific as one might imagine on Hollywood Boulevard. Of course their mother steals the show. Just was well that one is chronologically the last. Too much hilarity to try and surpass, honestly.

The one most instantly recognizable must be "Little Red Riding Hood," in which wolf and Red as well as Grandmother (as well as the mysterious bag of goodies) get a very dark and modern twist.

Meanwhile "The Devil and His Grandmother" makes for nice little tragi-comedy. As with all the other playlets of this new showcase for Zombie Joe's take on the world, the acting veered between competent and enthralling. The script itself allowed actors and directors
Photo Credit: Jana Wimer
have a lot of fun--and, perhaps more importantly, to let us the audience join the party!

Honestly, though, much as I did enjoy Grimm Nights Volume 1 (and make no mistake--I enjoyed that evening very much) some part of my mind nagged and said they'll get better. No doubt! Practice very rarely doesn't improve things, after all, and the talent showcased here (and at other Zombie Joe performances) have proven themselves many times. But I found myself wishing they'd do fewer but longer playlets next time.

What I saw was good. It entertained, no small thing! Methinks we (the audience) all walked away very pleased with the time spent in that by-now-familiar black box. People laughed,

sometimes so long and so loud the actors had to pause for a moment or two! We gasped a few times. Once or twice we jumped in our seats. Zombie Joe's group truly understands how to make the grotesque work, how to make such ideas into welcome theatrical events. Kudos to the cast, the writers and the crew who pulled this off! Yet I honestly wished for more. Maybe that is me, being rather...well...greedy.

At the same time I'm really, really looking forward to Volume 2! Cannot tell you how much I long to see
Photo Credit: Jana Wimer
Vanessa Cate (or example) do "Little Briar Rose" aka "Sleeping Beauty." Or Adam Neubauer re-tell "Hans My Hedgehog" Samantha Levenshus create a new version of "Grandfather Death" or Sebastian Munoz make his own "The Boy Who Went in Search of Fear" as well as Matt DeNoto's take on "The Griffin." Mind you, these are only offered as possibilities. I want to whet the appetite of theater-goers as mine has been!

I'm not going to do a blow-by-blow of every single vignette. Such would take far too much time to read! And surprise is one of the delightful tools used for the show. Don't want to spoil that!

Basically, I'm recommending not only this specific show, but sharing the way it makes me anticipate even more Grimm Nights in the future. My hope is, enough of you will help make that possible by showing up!

Grimm Nights Volume 1 plays  Sundays at 7pm through May 5, 2013. The show is at Zombie Joe's, 4850 Lankershim Blvd. North Hollywood CA 91601. Reservations are at (818) 202-4120.

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