You know the old story: Boy meets girl…other boy meets other girl. Boy meets boy. Girl meets girl and all are met under the guise of the most magically misconstrued love rectangle since the Peloponnesian Wars.—[Boy gets engaged to girl then loses girl but not really as it’s not like he ever really had her to begin with—other boy gets girl and takes her deep into the forest. Boy who just lost girl (but didn’t really lose her as they were only supposed to be together via societal convention) follows. Other girl follows boy, runaway girl loses boy to following girl, runaway boy and following boy lose everything and Fairy King loses Fairy Queen to ASS…and now, unable to follow my own rehashment of the story, I am unable to follow myself…]
Yes Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre has finally taken on a different genre of theatre penned by a very singular playwright—that of a one William Shakespeare (ever hear of him?) in the vein of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” directed by Denise Devin, produced by Zombie Joe. Having seen the play performed numerous times, one is always looking for something different, if not shorter, and Zombie Joe’s has done just that in its roughly 1 hour and 15 minute rendition. Suits me just fine, ‘cause let’s face it, the bard did sometimes have a bit of a tendency to overwrite!
The lobby is vibrant with intoned Disco beats and the sweet customary smell of Zombie Joe’s signature scent—Nag Champa. Accompanying are the ever present dismembered heads of ghouls and goblins grinning from their pedestals, only wishing they had legs and bodies in order to jig up the groove (and actual, working olfactory nerves in order to inhale the magical incesnsual scent of the Champa!)
Upon theatrical entry, the stage’s black walls are adorned with a painted moon and stars along with minimal hints of a set, which I find particularly magical and wonderfully fairy-taleish in its simplicity. Festive, ol’ skool pop music continues once inside the theatre via the likes of Volare, That’ll be the Day, I Was Made to Love Her, Signed, Sealed, Delivered and a truly tripped-out morph of Funky Town and Love Shack—Funky Shack—Love Town? (Where Love Stinks by J. Geils is in the midst of all this, I know not. But oh well…) Between the pauses of each song, jolly classical flute and lute melodies can be detected at a level so low one can only interpret it as subtle mood music reflective of the play’s original inception; mood music behind the mood music perhaps in a double soundtrack/entendre…? Quite ingenious really when one thinks about it…
The production itself if vastly energetic and nearly cartoonish at times featuring two musical numbers in the way of Mr. Big Stuff and Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, intoned primarily by the adeptly-voiced and delicious Ashley Fuller as Titania/Hipolyta along with most of the rest of the cast: The first tune, reminiscent of a Disney Music video or something from Shrek (and I can’t help but imagining the three little pigs dancing right up alongside the singing tableau.) The second groove, evocative of a most pastorally rustic and celebratory Claritin ad—a fun giddy romp!!!
The chase scenes betwixt the four lovers are volatile and near acrobatic reminiscent of a swashbuckling graphic novella and/or super heroic cartoon. Even the sound effects are inadvertently in check as a most delicious swoosh and swizzle of air can be heard at a certain point as Lysander whooshes around to grab Helena.
Costumes by Denise Devin and Jeri Batzdorff only add to the visual spectacle, Titania’s blue shiny, bejeweled dress in particular along with Bottom’s Donkey Head and Snug’s gold and silver lion mask resembling a combination of something out of a Greek tragedy (coupled with the metallic countenance of C3PO.)
The lovers via the likes of Dorian Serna as Demetrius, Arielle Davidsohn as Hermia, Robert Walters as Lysander and Nicole DeCroix as Helena are fun, earnest, energetic and sensual and very well rounded by an otherwise adequate to awesome cast!
(Oh and stage management by Angelia Weitzman is the best—you could tell just by looking at it that it was a very well managed stage…)
All in all a rustic, razor-sharp, jolly romp!
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is performed at Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91601, Friday nights at 8:30 until August 15th.
For more information please visit: