ZOMBIE JOE, JANA WIMER, and URBAN DEATH
EVERYONE IS TALKING ABOUT URBAN DEATH AT THE 2018 EDINBURGH FRINGE FEST!!!
…and rightfully sooooooo I am a HUGE fan of what they do.
I’ve seen their live putrid, vile, naked, extreme, lovely, warming, sexy, disturbing art live easily ten times and I’d see it ten more times.
The people behind the insanity JANA WIMER and ZOMBIE JOE are so perfect to be creating madness on stage. I love something that pushes the envelope and nothing today does so as hard and strong as their URBAN DEATH shows.
‘There may be many spooky stage productions around… but few will approach the level of this one” (New York Times). Urban Death presents vignettes of brutal horror mixed with gallows humour designed to shock, delight, and frighten. These unflinching performances will sear images into your brain and refuse to let go. Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre Group is based in Los Angeles and has been performing Urban Death to sell-out audiences for 13 years. They are now bringing their signature show to Edinburgh to share their monsters with the world. ‘A triumph in every sense.’ ***** (British Theatre Guide).
You find yourself seated in the pitch black of a locked and light-less room. The whipping winds and pounding rain of a fierce storm ring in your ears. Thunder cracks. A lightning flash reveals a bare stage and 50 other lost, trembling souls who are quickly swallowed by the Stygian darkness. Another crack and this time the lightning freezes a deranged, blood-smeared psychopath — in mid–ax swing — as he is about to decapitate some unlucky Wilson in the front row. And the evening’s nightmare has only just begun. Welcome to Urban Death at Zombie Joe’s Underground — 35 unspeakable (and unspoken) horror vignettes pantomimed in 55 minutes of delirious, hilarious, white-knuckle terror every Saturday at 11 p.m. Grand Guignol doesn’t get any grander, gorier or more unhinged than in director Zombie Joe’s long-running, late-night chamber play of the perverse. Watch as a pile of blackened, grimacing corpses gasp and twitch back to life; recoil as an unseen critter claws and scurries past your feet; feel your jaw hit the floor, as a demented chorus of menstruating dancers squat over a bucket and, er, relieve themselves of their soiled tampons. Now in its fourth year, Urban Death mines every horror genre known to man or beast — and then some — and stages their gruesome chills and thrills in a weekly tour de force of shock, subversive wit and artful misdirection. Be afraid. Be very afraid. Then come back next week for more.
*********************FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES:
Grand Guignol, the theater of the macabre, is a rarity in Manhattan, perhaps suffering from its association with high-school horror movies. Fortunately, Grand Guignol is alive and well — maybe undead is a better word — at the Players Theater in Greenwich Village, where the director Zombie Joe and Zombie Joe’s Underground Theater Group have set up house far from Los Angeles, where they have led audiences on flights of fear for more than a decade.
Last month the company presented an Edgar Allan Poe triptych — comprising “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Bells” and “The Masque of the Red Death” — at St. Luke’s Theater in Midtown, and while it was ample evidence of Zombie Joe’s talent, the show only touched the surface of his unsettling preoccupations. “Urban Death” goes deeper, helped inestimably by the darker interior and narrower confines of the Players Theater.
“Urban Death” isn’t frivolous; though not without humor, it’s disturbing, particularly in its R-rated passages. But that’s the point. It begins with a mound of ghoul-like bodies awakening in an empty space and morphs into a procession of tableaus, many of them digs at show business: slow-moving male bodybuilders flex freakishly; three barely clad lovers entwine in a spotlight, like porn stars; a homeless woman pleading for attention is attacked by a masked assailant; models pose as if for a Vanity Fair cover although they resemble corpses; a man, his head encased in plastic, suspends from a rope, a still life of autoerotic fatality.
The almost wordless “Urban Death” is no arena for actorly grandstanding, though the troupe’s performance is uniformly solid, accompanied by Christopher Reiner’s alternately ambient and dissonant score. The work is, however, a showcase for first-rate makeup (the actors do their own), costumes and sheer, vital stagecraft. There may be many spooky stage productions around this Halloween, but few will approach the level of this one. After all, on the West Coast, Zombie Joe and his night stalkers do this sort of thing year-round.
Directed by JANA WIMER (*seen here wrangling DEE SNIDER) and ZOMBIE JOE.
*******************HERE’S A REVIEW ON THEIR HOLLYWOOD SHOW, FROM HORRORBUZZ.com
A beige stucco storefront along Lankershim Blvd in the arts District of North Hollywood glows an otherworldly yellow under the streetlight in front of it. Just above the door is a plain white, backlit sign, with the block letters Z.J.U. While nearly invisible among the endless buildings one of the busiest streets in Los Angeles, this is actually the portal to a world of experimental theatre that every Angelino must know if they don’t already.
Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre Group aka Z.J.U. was born in a small industrial garage in Northridge, California. This underground theatre aimed to push the limits of live progressive theater as a vital experimental art form. Their trademark show Urban Death has garnered praise, gasps, and shrieks of maniacal joy since its debut in 2005. It was only relatively recently that the edgy theatre troupe developed there signature show into a Halloween experience complete with a terrifying maze, and performance. This year may be their best edition yet.
After queueing up outside along the busy street, visitors are greeted by a deceptively cheery usher who assures them if they make it through there is a Halloween treat in it for them. As the performance time arrives the line of 50-ish audience members are allowed into the maze, in groups of no more than three people at a time. We suggest you ask to go it alone, but that’s just us. With nothing but a very, very dim flashlight we escape the noisy thoroughfare behind us and are plunged into inky darkness.
The air is thick with the smell of incense and we can see little except for what our small beam of light allows. We hear the moans and shrieks of the creatures in the dark but can’t see them until they are inches from our face. Winding through the maze of black plastic sheeting, we follow glow in the dark arrows that guide us through the hellish walkthrough until we arrive at a lit performance space. We are safe, for now that is.
Elif Savas, on of the many players in this ghoulish ensemble, stands in a pool of amber light, playing her violin. Once the entire audience has made their way to the performance space the lights dim and the show begins. Fearless is a word I cannot use enough when describing the ensemble here. There isn’t a weak link in the bunch as Savas, Abel Horwitz, and the rest of the talented performers deliver episodic nightmares before your eyes. Shocking, funny, and at times painfully unsettling, this is probably the best edition of Urban Death: Tour of Terror that I have seen.
The performance ends and we have no choice but to make our way back through the maze, dim flashlight in hand, to encounter another set of intimate horrors. Consistently surprising, the talent in this section of the haunt are giving everything to the audience and they deserve the credit for it. Soon enough we make our way back to the innocuous front door to the theatre. We hand our flashlight to the same cheery stage hand and, as promised, a Halloween treat; some trick or treat candy.
Far from the normal boo-scares or polished immersive sets, this is ragged, in-your-face theatre that demands your attention. Aggressively creative and savage, there are no holds barred in subject matter and content. That being said, the actors bare all at times, so this is definitely an 18 and up type of thing. Not kid-friendly.
If you are looking for something new, something different, something entirely affordable at $15 a ticket, this is your stop. You will not find a more uninhibited cast of actors or a company that allows them to follow their impulses. Dive into the dark with the Urban Death: Tour of Terror this Halloween. You will be scarred, but it’s nothing that will show.
Urban Death created in 2005 by Zombie Joe and Jana Wimer, Music by Christopher Reiner.
DON’T MISS THEM LIVE, AS THIS IS THE LAST WEEKEND TO SEE IT ON THIS TOUR!!!!
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