Zombie Joe Underground’s 50 Hour Drive-By Theatre Festival!: Bamoozles, Confuses and Amuses!

50 Hour Drive-By Cast Photo Courtesy of Adam Neubauer

50 Hour Drive-By Cast Photo Courtesy of Adam Neubauer

The Play Festival begins like any other, though when you’re watching anything at Zombie Joe’s, all bets are off.  Its inception, however—i.e. the part the audience doesn’t get to see– is a completely different story…

The bottom of the program touts the following declaration, (or is it a caveat?):

Created on the Following Time Line with a Leap of Faith…

Thurs, Feb 6 @ 6:00pm:  Writers pick their 3 props at random.

Thurs, Feb 6 @6:35pm:  Writers make their 1st pen stroke, together!

Fri, Feb 7 @5:30pm:  Final scripts finished & turned into ZJU (that’s Zombie Joe’s Underground)

Fri, Feb 7 @5:40pm:  Directors meet to Review scripts with Zombie

Fri, Feb 7 @7:45pm:  Performers arrive, and rehearsal begins…

Sat, Feb 8 @ 4:15pm:  We piece the production together… (tech rehearsal I’m guessing?)

Sat, Feb 8 @ 8:35pm:  Showtime…50 hours from 1st pen stroke!”

Photo Courtesy of Adam Neubauer

Photo Courtesy of Adam Neubauer

I’ve actually seen, if not participated in, productions like this that were put together in 24 hours.  For better or for worse, the end results pertaining to such days’ long endeavors are usually mixed.

I approach the theatre on the first night of performances.  The line outside is packed and the luscious scent of Nag Champa wafts strongly out of Zombie Joe’s Underground lair (not the aroma you would expect from a Zombie’s lair but therein lies the delicious irony).  I normally like to sit closer to the front for optimal lighting, but tonight, this will not be an option—first time ever as a reviewer I have been pushed to the back.  No matter though, I can see that this event is popular and can feel the energy palpably; the excitement, the expectations, the one guy crowded in the back like a sardine hoping his claustrophobia doesn’t kick in before he kicks everyone’s chair to his aft.

Okay, so the lights go down and after hearing what sounds like someone trip over someone’s chair ever so slightly… they come up on the first short play of the evening:  Doodlebug’s Lament by Jim Eshom.   The opening image is that of a girl…this really cute girl (Anne Wescott)…well woman actually…in ponytails, with this, like…stuffed radio-actively fluorescent orange frog.  She works its hands (or more biologically correctly, its front webbed feet) to clap at what can only be interpreted as the action transpiring behind her and to her left (kinda like one of those elementary school mirror photos where your bust comprises the down center/right stage portion and then a replica of your big beaming head looms awkwardly, if not creepily, on the upper left.)

Photo Courtesy of Adam Neubauer

Photo Courtesy of Adam Neubauer

The creepy image to the left encompasses a guy in scrubs (Daniel Camacho) pulling out a guy in a business shirt and tie’s (Ronnel Ricardo Parham) tooth.  Both characters are completely blood spattered.  This is somehow the bidding of the woman (Doodlebug?) and the puke orange frog and it somehow keeps repeating itself in a manner that tries to be weird just for the sake of being weird…?

Anyway, I have no idea what’s going on.  The lights continually come up and go down with the same guy’s tooth being pulled time after time.  At about the second lights out, the somewhat uproarious laughter that was the audience’s bent at the commencement of this piece begins to wane to a titter and then fades all together by third lights out. Having no idea what Doodlebug’s lament was, I have a pretty good idea regarding my own…

Fran’s Home Version by Jeri Batzdorff begins to restore my faith in this 50 hour short play project just a trifle.  Fran, played by an ever-so-deliciously Morticia Addamsish Corey Zicari, Edgar played by the comedically uptight Willy Romano-Pugh and Alan played by an adorable Matt DeNoto engage in a rather twisted duel/non-threesome as Fran engages the men (in hopefully giving her a ring of engagement) by engaging each other in a battle for her affections.

“Oh yes, your friend Alan…we’ve met…” quoth Edgar bemusedly after having arrived back at Fran’s apartment with her–and her alone–for assumed first time sex and a pizza (though not necessarily in that order)…until dingleberry Alan shows up…sheesh… (stupid Alan!!!)

Shortly hereafter the games begin:  The thumb wrestling, “sing(ing) our song at the same time”, a “duel to the death” wherein the two men begin fencing each other with what look like red plastic shields, proposal positions (Which knee?  Which knee?) and, one of my favorites, “Okay now stick out your tongues and wiggle them as fast as possible!” (Oho, if only “The Bachelorette” were allowed to go there…if only…  The show’d be over much more expeditiously—a blessing in disguise…?) By the end of this piece, it would appear the men may be more in love with each other than their original and self-proclaimed intended…


Photo Courtesy of Adam Neubauer

Photo Courtesy of Adam Neubauer

Tartine by Kerr Lordygan changes the tone a bit.  More avant garde and symbolic than its predecessor, it explores the life of a girl Gelle, played harrowingly by Caitlin Carleton, and the hedging-on-incestuous relationship with her beefy brother Ben, played deliciously buffoonishly by Steven Alloway.  His trademark; a garish wrestling belt bombastically brandished about his waist.  Gelle can only be saved by an older woman named Yeulah, played compellingly by Ellen Runkle.  But exactly who is Yeulah? In some instances one senses she is a mother figure but later it is evident that perhaps they are lovers…or perhaps Yeulah is a holistic figment of Gelle’s imagination…?  Only at the play’s conclusion do we come to a somewhat shocking surprise as to Yeulah’s significance…

What if St. Peter was a delicious gypsy woman with a New York accent?  This is exactly what Denise Devin sets out to explore in her most recent and admirable, swiftly penned work, The Pearly Gates.  My favorite play of the evening, Devin compels the audience to see Heaven and the afterlife on a slightly different angle as two sisters, just having crashed their car, meet the gatekeeper only to get some resolve in their lives from noted treasures bestowed upon them by our noted Saint via their deceased mother.  Touching and thought provoking, Ann Hurd graces us with a most sassy, ironically earthy and maternal St. Peter.  Sisters Jennifer, played by Eunice Viggers and Samantha played by Mary Rachel Gardner are touching in their earthly concern and love for one another; and had I not looked at their names in the program,  I might’ve thought they were true sisters through and through by the way they played off each other.

My Lady by Adam Neubauer rounds out the evening’s pentathlon and like one bookend to another, has much in common Doodlebug’s Lament.  Okay so it’s actually a little bit funny at first.  Okay…well maybe just a little; if you like looking at silly men in their underwear, (featuring perfectly fine and likeable actors in the form of Tyler Koster, Billy Minogue, David Wyn Harris and a rather creepy Roger K. Weiss—but a well-acted kind of creepy…) Each of three guys enters one by one in tighty whities, except a deliciously long-haired rocker-type dude in a fake tuxedo shirt. They are all in search of their “lady” (who never makes an appearance) and at least one has taken Viagra.  I am actually charmed by all three of them to a greater to lesser degree which delays my impatience with this particular piece…but only just a little…  For the most part, they enter and exit the stage, dancing in only their mangereie, saying goofball things, none of which further any sort of plot, though there really wasn’t any to begin with, until this creepy old dude, made up like a zombie, enters and tells them all he is the lady they have all taken Viagra for’s husband.  A duel (as in Fran’s Home Version ) might ensue…but it doesn’t really.  Someone might try and molest someone or even save someone as in Tartine.  But no.  Someone might die and go the other direction…oh no wait, the previous play has done it already…  So they just all dance and posture like goofballs in their drawers until the dark–that is a Zombie Joe’s black out–comes and absconds them and so ends this year’s 13th Annual 50 Hour Drive-By…

Photo Courtesy of Adam Neubauer

Photo Courtesy of Adam Neubauer

Zombie Joe’s UnderGround Theatre Group’s 50 Hour Drive-By will be performed again next year around this time for its 14th Annual celebration.  Stay tuned…



Jennifer K. Hugus

About Jennifer K. Hugus

Jennifer K. Hugus was born at a very young age. At an even earlier age, she just knew she would one day write for the LA Beat! Having grown up in Massachusetts, France, and Denmark, she is a noted fan of Asian Cuisine. She studied ballet at the Royal Danish Ballet Theatre and acting at U.S.C. in their prestigious BFA drama program. She also makes her own jewelry out of paints and canvas when she isn’t working on writing absurdist plays and comparatively mainstream screenplays. Jennifer would like to be a KID when she grows up!
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1 Response to Zombie Joe Underground’s 50 Hour Drive-By Theatre Festival!: Bamoozles, Confuses and Amuses!

  1. Sebastian Munoz says:

    Sweet write up Jennifer. Thank you SO much. 🙂

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