Blood Alley Christmas
We don’t cover a lot of theater here at Media-Geeks…but we do cover some of the spookier and more non-traditional theater events that happen every Halloween. With that in mind, I was pleased to discover that people in LA like to be creeped out so much that a local theater company has taken it upon themselves to extend the horror season into the realm of Christmas. Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre Group is now presenting, for a limited run, Blood Alley Christmas.
The show is described by the theater as an “All-New, Holiday-Horror-Theater Spectacular in the great Grand Guignol, Theatre of Cruelty and Butoh-Traditions, centering around the memoirs of a forgotten street-alley haunted by the longing, beauty and unspeakable events of its Christmas-past; a cursed place of no mercy, inhabited by a hundred-year accumulation of apparitions, phantasms and sub-breeds that desperately await their next victim!” Based on this description, Blood Alley Christmas purports to show glimpses of the darker side of Christmas. I have been to Zombie Joe’s before, at Halloween, when I attended and enjoyed a show called Urban Death. It has an anthology format, showcasing a large number of short scenes and vignettes, with no overall narrative thread to connect them. You really never know what will be shown to you next, which I find refreshing. Every few minutes is a new mystery, a new surprise to discover. It’s inherently exciting! I confess that I was expecting most of the Blood Alley stories to be supernatural or grim, with ghosts and death–essentially, I thought I was going to get Urban Death with Christmas flavor in the form of costumes or characters. By and large, that is not the case here. The format is the same, that of numerous quick scenes, but the tone is less horror and more…raunchy.
There are definitely a few horror-type scenes, and a few others that defy easy classification, but the primary thrust of the show, if you’ll pardon the pun, is sexual. These cover a range from mostly-harmless holiday fun to pretty graphic perversions, which is not intended to be a criticism but my attempt to explain the tone without describing the details and ruining that mystery which is one of the joys of the show. Yes, this show is for adults only. It has copious nudity, both male and female, and many simulated sex acts, but the show is not about titillation. Sometimes it is, but it is also often disturbing or uncomfortable.
The heart of the show is the cast. With such a small venue, every seat is very close to the performers, who perform in a multitude of various scenes during the course of the program. These actors really wowed me. They are fearless and hold nothing back on stage. I was thoroughly impressed with their commitment and ability to elicit reactions from me. This is truly local theater; you don’t get the sense that the actors are trying to use this for their reel to break their way into Hollywood. Instead, you come away feeling that everyone involved is here just because they love performing. They are doing it because it’s their passion, not because they want to be rich and famous someday. That kind of devotion really shines through, and the result is raw, honest, and evocative. You will feel SOMEthing, even if it’s not always jolly.
I also should mention that there is live music throughout the show. A single musician plays original music on drums, guitar, and synthesizer for the entire length of the show, a full hour. Many of the scenes have no dialogue, leaving the music alone to set the mood and convey atmosphere. It succeeds remarkably well, not only as background to the actors, but on its own during the times between acts. The music is extremely valuable to the experience, and I was pleased to see the musician listed alongside the rest of the cast.
As with any anthology, there are highs and lows. Some of the skits got a better reaction from the audience, some are funny, some are creepy, some are erotic, and some fell flat. Luckily, there were not many of the latter. At one hour, the show moves so quickly, and changes so often, that it doesn’t wear out its welcome. There are only two weekends of shows left! If you want to experience authentic theater for the joy of the craft, and take a break from slick Hollywood productions, you’re not going to find much better than Zombie Joe’s Blood Alley Christmas. It’s invigorating.
Blood Alley Christmas runs Fridays and Saturdays at 11 pm only, on 12/9-10 and 12/16-17. Tickets are only $15. For reservations call 818-202-4120, and advance tickets can be purchased at Zombiejoes.Tix.com. Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre Group is located at 4850 Lankershim Blvd. in North Hollywood, CA, 91601. More information is at ZombieJoes.com. And if you can get enough Zombie Joe, they are also currently running a Science Fiction adaptation of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.” This one is Fridays and Sundays through 12/18/16, with information and tickets available at the same links above.