A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending Zombie Joe’s latest production, “Blood Alley.” I wasn’t sure what to expect as I hadn’t attended a Zombie Joe production prior, and just figured it would be something theatrical. Now having gone through “Blood Alley,” the word “theatrical” seems to be an understatement.
“Blood Alley” is nothing I have ever seen; it’s theatre in it’s rarest form. Vulnerability and emotions are played out in front of the audience. The theatre only seats about 50 or so people, so everything that you are seeing is up close and personal. What I absolutely loved about “Blood Alley” was how raw it was. Nothing is shielded and nothing is sugar coated. The show presents us with the darkest corners of humanity… and the beyond. Where depraved acts take place within the shadows. Where life and death meet head on, with death being the one to prevail.
Let me start by saying this is not a show for kids. There is extreme nudity and adult situations (such as rape, drug use, necrophelia, murder, etc) that I think are more suitable for those who can handle such topics. There are also scenarios that may be a trigger for some people. With all that said, “Blood Alley” is one of the best theatre experiences that I have ever gone too. The actors were phenomenal and really took on all personas of their characters. I was initially shocked by the nudity, not because I’m a prude, but because it was so unexpected. For these actors to bare themselves in that way was beautiful. During the show, there were times when the lights would go out and within a few minutes come on and a new set of actors would be on stage. I give them so much credit for being able to to maneuver around without any light. It made the whole experience that much more chilling. There is something absolutely horrifying about being in a pitch black room and hearing some ungodly thing heavily breathing near you…
Another aspect of “Blood Alley” that I really enjoyed was the music. It was done impressively by a one man band. An individual, dressed in police uniform, performed the music while also keeping an eye on the chaos unfolding. If you think he’s just the “music man” or the “police man” you are wrong - as he has some demons he’s dealing with as well. Throughout the show the music kept pace with everything that was happening. The music was choreographed precisely to each scene and the events happening within that scene. The music was also used to build tension, starting slowly and then continuing to get louder and louder as it built up to the climax. When all was said and done, I have to say, the music was one of my favorite parts.
I don’t want to give too much away from the show as it’s really an incredible experience to be had. “Blood Alley” lived up to the name and it was surreal to see the things that we fear played out in front of all of us. When the show ended I knew I needed to talk to the owner of the production, Zombie Joe. This was my first time attending one of his shows and I was curious as to how such a friendly outgoing individual could come up with such a horrifyingly dark but beautifully grim show.
Shannon McGrew: Hi Zombie Joe, it’s such a pleasure to meet you! Thank you so much for letting me come to see “Blood Alley.” I was absolutely blown away and I need to know, how do you come up with your shows?
Zombie Joe: Each of our productions entail a different pre-production and rehearsal process…BLOOD ALLEY utilizes a collaborative process with an amazing company ensemble, based upon an established theme of an ancient forgotten passageway.
SM: What inspires you to make the show that you do?
ZJ: We of ZJU (Zombie Joe’s Underground) have always been up for a good challenge, as we are all hard-working, blue-collar theatre artists. So it would be ZJU’s unsurpassed theatre family that deeply inspires, as we constantly push one another forward, both individually and collectively, into a cohesive, well-oiled machine.
SM: What was the hardest part about putting BLOOD ALLEY together?
ZJ: Every bit of our process proves both beautiful and challenging; it is ALL extremely mentally, physically and spiritually grueling for all of us, but hopefully not without victorious gratification when the curtain rises, not to mention the cumulative growth process we experience during the creation period.
SM: For me, this show was an experience like none other. I felt like it played off of all my senses. What do you want the audience to take away from BLOOD ALLEY?
ZJ: We always hope to entertain and provide a wonderfully unique experience for our beloved and precious audiences, and it is always our hope that they will always enjoy our stylings and feel their evening was well spent with us!
SM: Now that I’m completely hooked on your shows, what can we all expect from you in the future?
ZJ: We have a full itinerary and fabulous season ahead! Our fun n’ freaky exciting new URBAN DEATH opens Friday April 29 at 11pm; Roger K. Weiss’ World-Premiere Masterwork Dramedy REMEMBER MY NAME opens Saturday May 7 at 8:30pm; and award-winning ZJU Director Denise Devin’s re-imagining of Shakespeare’s AS YOU LIKE IT opens Friday May 20 at 8:30pm.
SM: Thank you so much Zombie Joe for an incredible show and for letting me dissect what is going on in a mind like yours! We here at Nightmarish Conjurings wish you even more success on your upcoming shows!
BLOOD ALLEY will be playing one last show this weekend April 8 and 9th at 11pm at Zombie Joe Underground. For reservations and advance ticket sale call (818) 202-4120 or visit ZombieJoes.Tix.com.