For those who don't know, each year the folks at Zombie Joe's in NoHo stage an event in which playwrights are assigned some actors, a director, a few props then they get a limited amount of time in which to write and produce a ten minute play.
To be honest, the results inevitably end up a mixed bag but rarely disappoint when it comes to sheer entertainment!
And 2017 is no exception.
Red Star by Vanessa Cate was frankly my favorite this time 'round. Jana Wimer directed Michelle Danyn, Trish De Luca, Trevor Fisch and Scott Sytten in a fantasy set...somewhere. I don't know precisely where, although (and forgive if this sound oh so very arty) it seems absolutely itself. We are in no copy of Middle Earth, of Hogwarts or Westeros. This place, with its huge dark forest and a dim memory of stars, sees two people run away from home--or what seems like home. As you might expect, they meet but after that nothing really goes as one quite expects. Personally I could not take my eyes off the stage.
Anatidaephobia: or, What the Difference Between A Duck? by Steven Alloway easily wins as the most zany, funniest and most full of 'in jokes.' Denise Devin directed this comedy about Steven Alloway (portrayed by James Sanger) trying to write a play for the 50 Hour Drive By. Honestly, has anyone ever done this before? I dunno! But it very nearly qualifies as genius, as Lara Fisher gets called in to help Steven, who is holding Matthew Vorce and Janel Corgan Caldera captive to work out the story of his play. If that sounds zany, even a bit insane, believe me that was the least of it. A big clue lies in the title and I urge you to look up the meaning of anatidaephobia. You won't be disappointed!
Survivor's Guilt by Emily Charouhas and directed by Roger K. Weiss began as another comedy. Nicole A. Craig wants to hold a seance with her friends Brandon Slezak, Jason Britt and Emily Charouhas (yes the playwright actually appears herself in this one). It certainly starts out funny as they all placate Nicole's character, then play tricks on her--and then the whole situation does a u-turn into genuinely frightening horror! Honestly, this is the one of this year's plays that seems most complete, in and of itself.
The Forest on the other hand, written by Zombie Joe and directed by Abel Horwitz, is one of those (so typical of ZJU) that shocks and almost goes overboard, but leaves you wondering on all sorts of levels. The Nymph of the Light (Shane Eastin) battles with the Nymph of Darkness (Michelle McGregor) over...well, I think over the Babe (Ian Heath), a seeming newborn entity albeit one fully grown. Hermes (Daniel Palma), the Nymph of the Light's servant, steals the Babe and seeks out the Guardian of the Forest (Jetta Juriansz). I often characterize stuff done at ZJU as "Theatre of Dreams" and this feels very much in that vein. Not a complaint! Not at all!
Alas the 50 Hour Drive By lasts but one weekend, but will return with brand new material in time. I recommend you watch for it. I am fortunate to see a lot of theatre native to Los Angeles, and Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre Group easily wins a place as one of the most original, experimental and thought provoking.