'Tis the season for spooks and horror, for the dead to walk and the insane to stalk the living. It is also time for Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre in NoHo to offer a tour of Hell. Well, of course.
Deviled is precisely that. We the audience find ourselves greeted by...someone. Or something. Could be both. Anyway, our host offers a glimpse of something so long as the magical wards remain in place. Do not go beyond the wards he/it warns, lest ye never escape.
Longtime ZJU fans may know what to expect next. They will be partially right. Many of the cast are ZJU veterans and various newcommers. Acts of the grotesque and disturbing make up the fare of what we see, but as ever this is not generic set of horror images. The earlier description holds -- a tour (or perhaps "glimpse") of Hell itself, that part of the afterlife consisting of cruelty.
What follows lacks the raw shock of many works directed by Zombie Joe, as well as the simple horrifying details of those done by Jana Wymer. No, in this case Brandon Slezak goes after a landscape that remains totally disturbing on many levels right from the start. A place where dark impulses literally become the flesh and bone of its prisoners/inhabitants, where loss of self and degradation seem part of the air itself. Not simply because of random acts like a man trying to crawl away only to be found and raped by a silently gigging imp. Or the insectoid birthing scene almost everyone seemed to enjoy way too much.
(Did I mention no one under 13 is admitted? Yeah.)
No, what really disturbed were those moments when what seemed like human souls were being awakened, invaded, warped. A ritual/dance/sleepwalking series of metaphormoses proved in some ways the worst -- what (presumably) were once human beings reshaped into monsters via an instinct to fuse their flesh together.
Yeah, no clowns jumping out and yelling "Boo!" This makes for much more disturbing fare.
Please note the cast overall did a fine job, so kudos to Patrick Beckstead, Megan Combes, Michelle Danyn, David Dickens, Ian Michaels, Baba Njie, Brandon Slezak, Michaela Slezak and Claire Stephens.
Deviled (which given the spelling really should be pronounced dee-VILE-d) plays Wednesdays at 8:30pm, 9:30pm and 10:30pm until November 15, 2017 at ZJU 4850 Lankershim Blvd (just south of the NoHo sign), North Hollywood CA 91601.