As any longtime fan can testify, the Grand Guignol Gothicists of Zombie Joe's Underground could perform the phone book and make it look like a blood-curdling issue of EC Comics. Fortunately for this short, late-night evening of original playlets and poetry torn from the sketchbook of Zombie Joe himself, the featured texts are nothing so prosaic. Rather, the seven pieces (mostly — and inventively — directed by Jana Wimer) constitute a virtual key to comprehending the tortured, Catholic-guilt-twisted fatalism that both informs ZJU's aesthetic and provides their stage-zeit with its haunting, hallucinatory geist. Thus, in the opener, “Folly of Love Fulfilled,” Davern Wright, Joanna Bartling and Kyle Clare enact a parable of love, family and fate, in which redemption is annulled through the irony of its reverse-sequenced narrative. “Only Ever One” explores love lost via an idiot-child trance channeler (a mesmerizing Amy Gotham) exploited for dubious, otherworldly comfort by her brokenhearted sister (Anne Westcott) and a bereaved pilgrim (Denny Zartman). “The Sad Soul-Searching Spirit of Sweet Lil' Violet Nantucket” takes a grotesque look at transgressive desire in its tale of two inmates from Serenity Farms Asylum (Zartman and Wright) grave-robbing the skull of a gruesomely abused and murdered former patient (Gotham). The evening's visual keynote is provided by “Procession of Devils,” in which director Sebastian Munoz inflects ZJ's wry meditation on the veniality of his San Fernando Valley youth with Hieronymus Bosch-like theatrics. Shayne Eastin and Michael Maio illuminate the shorter verse pieces with their original score and engaging stage presence. Zombie Joe's Underground, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., N. Hlywd; Fri., 11 p.m.; thru Sept. 2. (818) 202-4120, zombiejoes.com.
Fridays, 11 p.m. Starts: Aug. 12. Continues through Sept. 2, 2011
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