Zombies vs. America (GO!)
Zombies From The Beyond, which premiered off-Broadway in 1995, takes place in the Eisenhower Years, that era of dull certitude when the Soviet Union was America's arch-enemy and the possibility of creatures from outer space invading the planet haunted American popular culture. In that pre-Women's Lib decade, women - most of them, anyway - unquestioningly built their lives around finding and keeping a man, downplaying whatever brains and expertise they were endowed with least the display of them offend desirable males.
Writer, composer and lyricist James Valcq sets his entertaining satiric musical in the Milwaukee Space Center circa 1955. The center is run by a military man, Major Malone (Frank Blocker) and his smug underling Rick (Eric Sand) who is dating Malone's demure but covertly brainy daughter, Mary (Amelia Gotham).
Also inhabiting the plot are Malone's man-hungry secretary Charlie (Lara Fisher), a delivery boy, Billy (Alex Taber), who worshipfully craves Charlie's attention, and Trenton (Daniel Jimenez), the newly arrived rocket scientist whose mutual attraction to Mary provokes Rick's green-eyed displeasure.
These rom-com elements and the lampooning of a sexist and ultra-patriotic mindset serve as prelude to the main comedic event: the invasion of Earth by extra planetary zombies led by Zombina (Alison England), a formidable she-dragon with an outlandish hairdo, in search of male homo sapiens with whom to mate. Brandishing a curling wand and possessed of a killer voice that renders men hapless and helpless, Zombina first wreaks her power on Rick, who, we've learned, is really a secret Russian spy with subversive plans of his own. Those plans dissolve as he's transformed into a quivering zombie sex slave.
Part of what makes this show such a rollicking good time is this juxtaposition of good-natured silliness with the political commentary in Valcq's clever lyrics. Executing ludicrous camp like this takes skill, and here the production delivers. Dan Spurgeon's staging - his direction of a versatile ensemble in a tiny space - is admirably adroit. But while everyone deserves kudos, it is England who secures the limelight, radiating a glittering comic menace with her manic stares and bizarre but scintillating vocals.
Lex Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave., Hlywd; through July 22. (323) 871-1150, www.thevisceralcompany.com
Public Spectacle, L.A. Weekly's arts & culture blog, on Facebook and Twitter:
Get the Theater
Your weekly guide to local culture with calendar listings and theater, dance, and comedy reviews.