Wednesday, February 14, 2018

PoPalypt1c (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

Interesting, how certain themes and ideas seem to bubble to the top of the collective theatre consciousness.  At least that seems a pattern.  Look at all the Shakespeare's lately having to do with very bad kings, from John to Macbeth.  Another idea showing quite a lot has proven that of Apocalypse, the end of the world. 

Gee, I wonder why?

(No, I don't.)

Credit: Shayne Eastin
Anyway, PoPalyp1t at Zombie Joe's has one more weekend as of this writing and let me say up front more folks should go see it.  The night I saw it was close to standing room only, but please take that as more reason to go get a ticket asap.


Now, like a lot of shows at ZJU, this one falls into a category I call "Theatre of Dreams," i.e. instead of a linear story per se it has the logic of a dream, in this case an often deliriously funny nightmare. The dream here is of those survivors from some kind of apocalypse, probably involving atomic war.  We focus on about three groups of survivors.  One consists of Satan (Jason Britt) and his fawning minion Squeak (Anes Hasi), the former furious as the mess he's now inherited which looks to be no fun at all.  Just an almost empty wasteland.  He can't even set fire to anything! 

Then we have three wrecked remnants of humanity--Itchy (Nick D'Alberto), Radar (Skye LaFontaine), and Burner (Abel Kidane)--clinging to/obeying/in some ways worshiping a female cyborg known as Mother (Caiti Wiggins).  Mother has a sense that Satan walks abroad and leads her distorted followers to find a Doctor (David Dickens) who doesn't seem terribly qualified for his supposed job, nor to have a particularly firm grasp on his own identity.

Credit: Shayne Eastin
Finally, we have Claudius (Daniel Palma) and Fauna (Alyssa Weldon), a pair of very dashing tango dancers who seem insane, at least by human standards.

This sounds all well and good and nicely weird, as per what one expects of ZJU.  Stream of consciousness, disturbing imagery, dark humor, blending fantasy with science fiction, etc.  This one, though, is actually more linear than (for example) Urban Death or Blood Alley.  Writer/director Shayne Eastin (a veteran of both earlier pieces in more than one iteration) takes her story more in the direction of a strange epic quest, fueled by Satan's inexplicable desire for this female Mother, his efforts to torture one of her children into becoming her Judas, and the strange, fractured wisdom with which she greets this trap. Her weird world-building seems coherent in a drug-induced sort of way, not merely in terms of tone but with specific characters and even character arcs. 

Likewise, the cast pushes forward to doing more than being "in the moment" as so many short-term characters (often brilliantly) are in such semi-stream of consciousness shows. Indeed, the way each actor devoted themselves so totally to their character made me only want more. 

Credit: Shayne Eastin
Indeed that is pretty much the only real criticism I have of the show, which otherwise does a magnificent job with its bizarre dreamscape, equal parts Lord of the Rings, Paradise Lost and Mad Max (with a mild sprinkling of Zardoz). But there seemed to be more story here, a few beats missing. 

Yeah, I wanted more.

PoPalypt1c plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8:30pm until February 17, 2018 at Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood CA 91601.

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