Centuries ago, a Romanian craftsman blew a glass ball for a widow pestered by a horny, tickling ghost. The blue orb was the size of a large onion and had ten times as many layers. If a human happened on it, they'd lose themselves in its dense levels. So, too, would passing spirits who were quite literally sucked into the witch ball and trapped. Glass, unless shattered, is destined to outlive its owner. And so Zombie Joe's efficient, energetic ensemble of eight -- Jonica Patella, Ashton Reese, Alexandra Ozeri, Christopher Goodwin, Andrew Graves, Nicole Fabbri, Jenny Dylana and Kyle Clare -- take us on the ball's adventure from the Carpathian hills to the Inland Empire with owners that include a wolf pack, a Salem housewife, a serial murderer and a white raccoon. Zombie Joe's episodic script has sharply drawn characters and savage humor, and he frames it as a story about storytelling, about how every tale (and every life) has a beginning, a climax and a denouement. (Though some endings linger on after death the ball watches a corpse slowly decompose.) Directed by Alison Cardoso with ZJU's unique joie de goofing, it's a tribute to yarn-spinning with puppets on sticks and simple silver masks asking audiences to imagine with them in a saga populated by gorillas and lions and demons. Pauline Noriega and Jeri Batzdorff's playful make-up and costuming round out the fleet and fantastical show. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; thru Sept. 11. (818) 202-4120.
Fridays, Saturdays, 8:30 p.m. Starts: Aug. 13. Continues through Sept. 11, 2010