Zombie Joe's Underground has recurring series dubbed Astroglyde. Consisting of a series of short, one person plays performed by the authors, they nearly always show a wide range of human experience. Usually a very wide range. This year's installment surely is no exception.
Eight performer/writers this year. Paired up with five different directors.
1. World's Biggest Love directed by Roger K. Weiss has Matt DeNoto demonstrate a blend of the grotesque and hilarious with his almost trademarked sincerity that comes across as perhaps total madness.
2. My Strength, directed by Adam Neubauer, gives us Jessica Weiner in what might be called the most conventional of the eight. She plays a woman getting ready to jump out of a plane. Why? Well, it has to do with her grandmother and if you want more details I recommend you see her perform.
3. Get Up, directed also by Weiss, has Abel Horwitz enact an interesting moment in time--one moment that makes our narrator travel back in his own mind to the all the key events which led to this horrible disaster.
4. On The Road, directed by Zombie Joe himself, enacted a tender story about a relationship. Jahel Corban Caldera shows skill in performance as well as what counts as a remarkably well structured tiny playlet.
5. The Pretender sees Erin Poland directed by Sebastian Munoz, a mini moment of contemplation about success and regret, ambition and hope. With some genuine razzle dazzle.
6. Unlikely Father has Mark Hein directed by Vanessa Cate, as a man helping his pregnant wife through labor. Amidst the tiredness and stress, some truths start falling out of his mouth. For better or for worse. Make that "and" instead of "or."
7. Fuck Death on the other hand deals with the opposite of birth, at least in some ways, as enacted by Ian Heath directed by Adam Neubauer. The monologue of an undertaker left alone to do some paperwork at the office--what he thinks, what he feels, what he dreams and does.
8. Esther has Zombie Joe direct Lara Fisher as Mrs. Santa Claus in a conversation with her new friend at Cantor's Deli. Technically, Fisher in particular does a fantastic job of listening to her non-existed fellow cast member!
This program offers variety, enough in terms of subject matter to please nearly anyone. I myself enjoyed the last three most of all, while others I've spoken with chose a different three. What earns my particular praise is the skill involved in bringing these mini-plays to life. Not one actor did anything but a fine job, often with funny and/or moving results. I understood every word (this is not small praise) not only in terms of diction but context. Each time the story came through loud and clear, and what I gazed upon seemed to be characters, not the actors portraying them.
As far as tastes go, #1 and #7 are the most gloriously 'out there.' #8 and #2 seem in many ways the funniest without going really dark (#6 goes a bit dark indeed). #3 and #4 and #5 qualify as what most people would call "drama." #6 blends the outre and ordinary. #7 and #3 have the most tragedy, although #5 pulled at my heart.
Astroglyde plays at ZJU Theatre Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd, North Hollywood CA 91601 (just north of Camarillo and across the street from KFC) Fridays at 8:30pm until December 19, 2014. Tickets are $15. Reservations can be made at (818) 202-4120 or by checking out ZombieJoes.tix.com