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HOLLYWOOD FRINGE: 'Zombies From The Beyond' At The Lex Theatre

Toby.Brown |
June 7, 2014 | 11:27 p.m. PDT

Contributing Writer

The cast of 'Zombies From The Beyond' (From left) Alex Taber, Lara Fisher, Alison England, Amelia Gotham, Daniel Jimenez, Frank Blocker, and Eric Sand. Photo by John Santo.
The cast of 'Zombies From The Beyond' (From left) Alex Taber, Lara Fisher, Alison England, Amelia Gotham, Daniel Jimenez, Frank Blocker, and Eric Sand. Photo by John Santo.
Here is the recipe: take a popular subject that could never be a musical, and then make it into a musical. With theatrical satires of 'Harry Potter' and 'Fifty Shades of Grey' storming the country, teenage wizards and soft-BDSM have become perfectly acceptable musical comedy themes. In 'Zombies from The Beyond,' participating in the Hollywood Fringe Festival at The Lex Theatre, the audience is asked to swallow a plot about man-starved aliens threatening to make zombie love-slaves out of half the human population... why not?

However, what is surprising about 'Zombies' is that, while its concept so closely parallels that of this new wave of musicals, it is almost 20 years old. 'Zombies From The Beyond,' written by James Valcq (known for his musical version of 'The Spitfire Grill'), debuted Off-Broadway in 1995 before having a healthy life in regional theatre across the country.  For Hollywood's horror and sci-fi themed The Visceral Company, 'Zombies' likely came as a natural choice to director Dan Spurgeon for the company's first attempt at a musical.

Spurgeon nails the kitsch expertly.  Crockery UFOs hover on fishlines over a Jetsons-esque set by Tommi Stugart, Angel Madrid, and Jason Thomas, complete with a several knobs and switches that, of course, are never going to be used.  Amelia Gotham as the stilted ingenue, Mary Malone, is comically frozen in a picture of 50s era feminine distress through large parts of her performance.  The stylistic touches really top themselves when it comes to the outrageous wigs by Dawn V. Dudley: the bulbous hair-sculpture on the head of alien antagonist Zombina (Alison England) would not seem out of place at one of the nearby art galleries.

Just reading the title of the show, it is clear what you are getting into. The show's strength is in knowing exactly what it is and delivering enthusiastically.  It is hard to not be won over by the cast as they sing and dance only a few feet from the audience in this pint-sized venue.  As can be expected with this type of kitsch, the best performances come in the character roles. Eric Sand hits every note with gusto as his character transforms from military man to lover to ridiculously-accented spy to zombie. Lara Fisher takes a fairly single-minded role as the date-obsessed secretary Charlie, and drags the audience in by her relentlessness, never missing a beat.  

The satire occasionally reaches beyond the easy targets of B-Movie cliches and into a larger social commentary.  It is refreshing that while the show mostly deals in 50s tropes, the gender roles receive a tweak in that it is almost always the men that are seen as objects of sexual-desire. Before Zombina's evil plot is ever revealed, the idea of approaching the alien visitors peacefully is quickly deemed un-American. A scientist quickly realizes the error of his ways, and shifts his energies to building a high-tech weapon, apparently a vacuum-cleaner with a megaphone attached to it.  And though the final tableau employs a giant American flag brilliantly, most of the time, the aim of 'Zombies' is lower. 

This production is not perfect, but even musical purists who cannot forgive a few off-notes will have to fight hard not to break a grin. While quite a bit of the show is sexually driven, the plot can be followed easily and enjoyed by the average 8-year-old. Again and again, the comedy in 'Zombies From The Beyond' hits its mark: right in the gut.

'Zombies From The Beyond' is playing at The Lex Theatre (6760 Lexington Avenue, Hollywood) through July 20. Tickets are $25-$32. For more information visit TheVisceralCompany.com



 

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