Monday, September 7, 2015

The Red Moon (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

The Red Moon marks the first of four vampire plays I know to open this autumn in the Los Angeles area. This one is at Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, an original musical by Ramon Sanchez.

Honestly, although I do recommend this show as genuinely fun and interesting as well as original in ways rarely seen in vampire fare, the script feels too short and in need of work. The story startled me as something truly interesting, a focus not on tribes or nations or the like but rather the fate of individual human souls.

Yet it wouldn't work without a cast to breathe life into these characters. We would not care, if Roxanna (Lara Lihiya) did not grab our attention so much from the first time she struts on stage.  Likewise the first words of the show are spoken by Lauri (Nicole Craig), the most mundane of character, the voice of the ordinary but not with contempt. Rather, she seemed real. A living human being. As did Anthony (Jason Britt), Lauri's friend who catches Roxanna's eye and soon joins her in the night.

In case you hadn't figured it out yet, Roxanna is a vampire. Among other things her role is tricky because she has to jump back and forth between an exultant siren drunk with blood-lust, then a guilt-ridden young woman deeply ashamed of all she's done. No small feat. Yet carried out with great depth.

To be sure all the major roles have their challenges. Lauri, for example, has the unenviable task of holding her own against two powerfully vivid and violent characters. Yet the actress in question carried it off!

Likwise Anthony has this powerful duality the needs exposing on stage--and that is what I saw. Even as the most fierce and reckless predator of humans, we can see his loneliness, his fear of becoming again what he once was.

Of all things, this is a love triangle with a man trying to win back a woman away from that woman's sister--which turns out not be a battle for her soul so much as his. A genuinely interesting, deeply dramatic idea, but little more than an idea without the cast.

Honestly, they saved it.  Because the script needs work.

Not that it is in any way bad! On the contrary, the promise it shows really has me feeling a deep desire to see his next draft produced! But the lack of detailed backstory gave the actors more work than necessary (albeit they rose to the challenge).  Also, other than the three leads Steven Alloway's Club Bouncer (with no name even) and Paul Carpenter's troubled Minister (ditto) alone seemed like characters really. They did a fine job with the little they had. Jackee Bianchi and Mariale Chiribao had even less to work with and did fine. I long to see what they might have done with more.

Bottom line--lots of promise very neary eclipsed by some extremely fine performances. Director Denise Devin deserves a lot of credit for assembling this cast.

The Red Moon plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8:30pm until September 26, 2015 at ZJU 4850 Lankershim Blvd (just south of the NoHo sign, north of Camarillo) North Hollywood CA 91601. Tickets are $15 and you can make a reservation at (818) 202-4120 or at

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