Monday, May 29, 2017

Blood Alley 3 (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

Those familiar with Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre Group certainly know this ensemble pushes boundaries, explores darkness and disturbing corners of the cosmos, usually amidst weird humor.

Well, Blood Alley 3 takes all that in many ways to the next level.

As in its first iteration (alas, never managed to see the second), the premise here lies in the title.  In some (presumably American) city, an alley has become what has become a "Bad Place."  The idea here is from modern horror iconography.  A spot--like the Overlook Hotel or the town of Arkham--which for some reason becomes a magnet for the preternaturally strange and dark.  In American horror literature, New England seems full of towns which have achieved this state.  Here, it is an alley.

Credit:  ZJU
Here, memories of horror and desire and perversion don't die, but seem to repeat themselves in a random loop.  A lone police officer (Kevin Van Cott) seems to more or less gotten used to this alcove of the surreal which is part of his beat.  Maybe he's even become part of it.  But we are the ones who have wandered in, who catch glimpses of things like a young woman (Nicole Craig) who seems distraught and maybe pregnant--at least her hands over her womb to suggest so--while constantly jostled by the crowd.  Which seems banal enough, right?  But still, when you think about it, horrible. Casual.  Cruel.

Then there are the more extreme acts, like the slave market and the gloating woman who takes her human chattal to do god-knows-what.  Like some one gleefully setting a man (Patrick Beckstead) bound and gagged on fire.  Like paying to rape a girl, with the others "on offer" trying not to pay attention (or worse, too numb to react).  Elsewhere--or elsewhen--a woman rips out a naked man's throat with her teeth.  And another man gets a blowjob, pulling out a gun to aim at the woman's head as he approaches climax.

Unlike Urban Death or Lost Souls, I cannot say there is anything supernatural we see in these vignettes.  Other than possibly the fact we can see them.  If anything the horror here--while extreme--remains firmly grounded in human evil, human cruelty.  Sometimes with startling humor as with the Victorian (or maybe Edwardian) bit done by Jason Britt and Michelle Danyn, in which some very very repressed people flirt--and it all goes so very very wrong.

Credit:  ZJU
On the other hand--just to keep things a tad more chaotic--the reaction these vignettes offers proves surprising.  For one thing, yeah the dark humor.  For another, scenes that one might think of as somewhat sexy (like Elif Savas in a really long lesbian make out session) end up drained of every drop of eroticism by their context.  This case was an example of mindless frenzied pleasure sans any human connection, coupled with (no surprise) drug addiction.  Other moments were just...gross.

Then there are very strange moments of beauty.  Without going into too much detail, something dreamlike happens when the lights go up and we see a lovely naked woman on stage, spattered all over with blood and seeming unconscious.  Yet then...

I don't want to spoil it.

While I"m at it, let me praise the performers such as Yael Wallace, Matthew Vorce, Brandon Slezak, Amanda McKenna, Juan Carlos Gough, Shannon Garland, and Shayne Eastin.  Their talent and bravery make this show work.

Blood Alley 3 plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8:30pm until June 10, 2017 at ZJU 4850 Lankershim (just south of the NoHo sign, just north of Camarillo), North Hollywood CA 91601.

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