End Up Here
Reviewed by Gray Palmer
Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre
Through January 22
Is theater art separable into sets that represent the theater of sleep and the theater of awakening? Definitely. However, it’s easy to get lost in the threshold areas, especially at twilight. And because there’s no hard line of demarcation in these contact zones, names can appear in both languages at once, like street signs in Chinatown. Art, especially theatrical art, is heterotopic.
Theater enthusiasts can become addicted to these dream places. As Cocteau says in a diary passage, “Flies gather round the tray and dream, the lizards with their little mittens swoon on the ceiling above the lamp and wait for the night, mice come close and nibble the dross…” and just as “one smokes with implements calculated to confuse the police,” so the bric-a-brac tools, the genre devices, become re-animated toward dreams — by a good enchanter.
Christopher Reiner, the composer for Zombie Joe’s signature piece, Urban Death (among many other shows), has been escorting audiences across the border into the ZJ Underground for years. Why has it taken so long to present him in a solo entertainment?
End Up Here, Reiner’s set of songs and readings, is being performed in a limited engagement that I hope Zombie Joe will consider extending. It’s being performed on Sunday afternoon at 4 — a salon gathering, tea time in a coffin. The show runs for an hour, like most programs at ZJU, so when you exit the theater, and pass the paint-by-numbers-Poe in the lobby, you will step outside just at twilight.
Reiner, a relaxed and charming singer, has put together a set of fourteen narrative songs, nicely varied by roving keyboard improvisations and readings of material. He has a good feeling for musical irony and a knack for pop construction. As the title suggests, you may learn how Reiner found his way to the Underground. (It has something to do with defective steering.)
A lucky thing for theatrical flies, lizards and mice.
Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Sun., 4 p.m.; through January 22. (818) 202-4120, zombiejoes.com. Running time: one hour without intermission.