Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Urban Death 2015 (review)

Spoilers Ahoy!


Waiting in line for the box office to open at ZJU's 2015 edition of its signature show Urban Death, I chatted with a small group ahead of me. Seems none of them were veterans of either this show or this theater. Two young ladies wanted to know if it was going to be "gory" or "creepy." One liked gore, the other liked creep.

I said this show usually has violent congress with your mind.

Photo Credit: Marti Matulis
My prediction proved true. The entire audience (taking up every single seat) reacted in ways I"m sure made the hearts of the creators swell with pride. Quite rightly, too.

Urban Death seems like equal parts performance art, macabre sketch fest, halloween haunted house and maybe a fever-induced nightmare. Now in its fifteenth year or so, the show continues to evolve. Certain bits and...not sure what to call them...scenarios? That'll do. Certain scenarios return almost each year, but with new twists and turns every time. The pervasive humor is dark, perverse, often shocking, sometimes hilarious and not a few times all of the above simultaneously.  Other times the darkness lacks any shred of humor, with a simplicity that sends shivers down one's soul.  Still other times we're just plain scared!

Photo Credit: Marti Matulis
Having seen the show several times, I can tell you the versions directed by Zombie Joe tend towards greater gore and shock. Jana Wimer on the other hand focuses more on psychological horror. This year, they share the directing credit. What results blends the two with great skill and (very important) power.

What I'm not going to do (despite the disclaimer above) is give away much of what happens. Up to you, the reader, to decide is this show is your cuppah tea. If not, you probably don't wish to read many details, lest you lose sleep. If the idea of this show appeal, however, then 'tis a poor critic indeed who ruins the theatrical event for patrons!

But let me note the audience reacted with equal parts glee and shock, like grand guignol theater of old, fascinated by the emotional pit yawning before them and sometimes laughing despite themselves. Not that any of this would work without a truly splendid cast. Some I've seen before--such as Vanessa Cate, Charlotte
Photo Credit: Marti Matulis
Bjornbak, Gloria Galvan, Brett Gustafson, David Wyn Harris, etc. Others are less familiar to me, but also created the weirdly wonderful, horribly beautiful world of Urban Death, including Ian Heath, Kevin Pollard Jr., Elif Savas, Danny Whitehead and Melissa Whitman.

Urban Death plays Saturdays at 11pm for who knows how long. Probably as long as folks buy tickets and most of the cast remains available. Bet on four to six weeks, although try not to gamble on missing this show, unlike any other. The location is Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre Group at 4850 Lankiershim Blvd (across of KFC, just south of the NoHo Sign) North Hollywood CA 91601. Call (818) 202-4120 for tix or go HERE.

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