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Emily Charouhas and Jason Britt in Artificial Flowers at Zombie Joe's Underground. (Photo by  Zombie Joe's Underground.)

Emily Charouhas and Jason Britt in Artificial Flowers at Zombie Joe’s Underground. (Photo by Zombie Joe’s Underground.)


Artificial Flowers

Reviewed by Lovell Estell III
Zombie Joes Underground Theatre
Through March 11

The folks at Zombie Joes continue to expand the theatrical palate with this engaging two-character psychological drama, written and directed by Emily Charouhas.

Phelix (Jason Britt), a struggling writer, is first seen slouched in a chair in his very downscale LA. apartment looking every bit the part of a man dealing with perpetual angst and a bad hangover. His late-night solitude is interrupted when Maeve (Charouhas), a sometime screenwriter, suddenly drops in, presumably looking for some company. A spate of offhand banter soon reveals that the two have a complicated and messy relationship that neither of them is able to fully understand. At one point, Phelix gruffly orders Maeve to take off her dress, which she does — then he taunts her for her slavish willingness to do so.

As the evening progresses, the pair indulge in a complex, often ugly game of psychological one-upmanship and domination in which the dense layers of their emotional and psychological connections are exposed, a feat that the playwright skillfully delineates. A subsequent violent orgy of sex and drugs seems to emblemize the essence of this puzzling relationship, yet it isn’t until the finale, where Maeve bares her soul, that a semblance of clarity is added.

The performances are good, but not polished. This is especially true of Britt, who too often lapses into awkward emotional flatness. The most compelling aspect of this show is Charouhas’s perceptive writing, which cleverly plumbs the opaque emotional and psychological content of these characters.

 

Zombie Joes Underground Theatre Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8:30 p.m. http://www.ZombieJoe’s.com or (818)-202-4120; through March 11. Running time: 1 hour with no intermission.

 

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