Words to the wise: Never, but never, take a vacation with playwright Robert Riemer and director Zombie Joe. In last year's A Memory of What Might Have Been, the team transformed an isolated Baja tourist court into a hair-raising, metatheatrical midnight of the soul for a pair of fugitive lovers. Now, with Sotto Voce, Riemer and ZJ visit the big island of Hawaii for a delirious one-act, 55-minute tour of a tortured mind. (Think Agnes of God on holiday with Ken Russell's The Devils.) Set in a demented convent of the damned, circa 1965, the psychological thriller follows Wendy (Vanessa Cate), a traumatized, id-twisted novice who has been sequestered away by a mother (Lori Hunt) intent on keeping family skeletons secreted safely in their closet. Unfortunately for Wendy, her bare cell and contemplative life come with a particularly malevolent Mother Superior (Brenda Marlene Uribe) and the kind of cloister that permits unfettered access by the ghosts of her sexually abusive father (Skip Pipo) and brother (Anthony Marquez). And though Wendy finds temporary solace in the arms of fellow neurotic Patsy (a delightfully manic Heather Roberts), the lines between reality and Wendy's inner demons soon tangle in an inevitable and bloody dénouement. Along the way, Zombie Joe pushes the boundaries of melodrama to their Gothic extreme in a weirdly poetic staging that nimbly bridges tender pathos and the darkest of depraved psychopathology. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Sat., 8:30 p.m., thru June 11. (818) 202-4120, zombiejoes.com.
Saturdays, 8:30 p.m. Starts: May 7. Continues through June 11, 2011