Tuesday, February 26, 2019

ZJU's 50 Hour Drive By 2019 (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

Each year Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre Group does a piece of experimental theatre madness called the 50 Hour Drive By.  The idea is that writers get a certain random group of props at the same time, and have a day to write what I call a "short play" with those props (and I believe they know the actors as well).  Cast and director then have roughly one day to put this thing up.  I plays for one weekend, three performances.  In truth I have seen at least one performed again in a different venue.

If this sounds borderline insane, I won't argue.  Probably none of the participants will, either.  The result is frankly zany in the extreme, sometimes moving, nearly always hilarious.

As of this writing, 2019's version has closed.  But to whet your appetite for next year (and to give some clue as to ZJU itself) here is a review:

First up was GEOdorant  written by Juliana Budrek and directed by Roger Weiss, which actually might win some kind of award for one of the strangest concepts ever presented at ZJU.  For the record, that is not a low bar.  Quite the opposite!   Imagine an underground explorer (Zack Zoda) poking around caves beneath the ruins of the very last Walmart, sometime in the latter part of the 21st century.  Here he encounters was seems to be a subterranean tribe of survivors from a great natural disaster, wearing nothing by yellow danger tape.  This already sounds incredibely weird doesn't it?  No, this is the normal part.  He meets a male (Brandon Slezak) and female (Lauren Faulkner), the latter of whom seems to want to mate with him.  But both warn he must flee, flee before the leader (Jonica Patella) shows up, and eventually the masquerade breaks--these are in fact aliens responsible for the earlier catastrophe, sparked by the treatment their Leader received while doing research doing customer service at Walmart.  But--aha!--the explorer knew all that before, had coming hunting these aliens with the only weapon to which they have no defense--men's deodarant!

Blood Moon 2:  Wolf Moon by Matthew Vorce and directed by Jana Wilmer was next.  A kind of guru hippy girl (Michelle Danyn) has led a couple of followers (Steve Alloway, Paige Phillips) to some remote spot in the woods at midnight to view the Blood Moon and feel the powers of the goddess.  She also seems romantically interested in one of them, but that is the least of the agendas at play--including the possible existence of a monster, which becomes less 'possible' and more 'certain' as time goes by.  As a fun twist, the whole story is framed as a scenario enacted via a hologram or something, with Ellen Bienenfield's Narrator freezing the action periodically to let the audience decide what one of the characters will do now.  We elect the most exciting choice of course, resulting--as we are very pointed reminded--in disaster for innocent people.

Straight Confused by John Santo and directed by Denise Devin, gets into a tangle of love and sex and dysfunction as well as misunderstandings, a nice and fractured sex farce.  Carter (Bobby Selsford) is looking forward to introducing his new boyfriend (Christian Sullivan) to his two mothers (Vanessa Cate, Cassie Crandall).  But when said boyfriend shows up, he is eventually deeply distressed to learn his new best friend thinks they are a couple.  And let us be frank here--answering "Yes" to the question "Are you gay?" had a lot to do with that (he does bemoan how poor he is at communication, though, noting he thought the question referred to his disposition, not orientation)!  Stupid boy.  In the fallout from all this, the two mothers get into a spat of epic drama and revelations, most of them kinky and a fair number fairly disgusting.  And because it is a farce, the ending is happy.

Finally Breaking Convention by Jana Wilmer and directed by Liz Lanier, set in a meeting room at some science fiction/fantasy convention, evidently a fairly large one. Ted (Warren Hall) has set up a Gathering Meet Up for Polyamorous Role Players, which is itself food for a lot of hilarity.  A Cat Man (Abel Horwitz) and a female Gollum (Claire Stephens) before the star of an actual (presumably fictional--I did not recognize the character) star of a t.v. show shows up, in her character.  She (Julia Coulter) is evidently a supervillain and claims to have the actual golden glove which allows her to take over people's minds.  She demonstrates that it works, but then reacts with dumb horror these idiots would actually prove THIS susceptible to suggestion.  She berates them.  Humiliates them.  Leaves in an act of supreme contempt for them.  Being true fans and nerds, they turn to each other and celebrate the fact she showed up at all!  Wow, that hit a little close to home!

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