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Theater review: 'Christmas Thrills and High Adventure!'

December 13, 2011 |  4:49 pm

Alex Medina and Neysa Lozano in "Christmas Thrills and High Adventure!"

Whew!  “Christmas Thrills and High Adventure!,” an evening of holiday-themed sketch-comedy and music  at Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre, has the kind of rampaging energy more typically associated with hyperactivity disorder.

Given the right context, that could be quite endearing.  But Richard Nathan’s scattershot playlets are more miss than hit, and when the laughs flag, director Denise Devin compensates by amping up the volume in a high-decibel staging that can wear on the nerves.  The strutting, mugging and very loud performers hard-sell the show like flea-market vendors who have to make the rent. 

To give Devin and her cast their due, subtlety would not be in order here.  High camp is the obvious objective, and to that end, Nathan freely samples cliché genres, from detective noir to western to pirate adventure to horror story. 

It all sounds promising enough, but Nathan’s offbeat rhythms and bizarre characters seem more akin to Samuel Beckett than Carol Burnett.  Notwithstanding the deficits in the material, a great deal of effort and sheer toil has gone into these proceedings.  Devin, assisted by cast member Irene Conde and Jeri Batzdorff, has assembled elaborately comical costumes that are a highlight.  The staging is undeniably snappy, and the performers are ready, willing and well-prepared.  Still, when the laughs don’t come, all the attendant glitz, razzle-dazzle and slapstick can’t quite conceal the strain.

-- F. Kathleen Foley

“Christmas Thrills and High Adventure!” ZJU Theatre Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood.  11 p.m. Fridays.  Ends Dec. 30.  $15. (818) 202-4120. www.zombiejoes.com.  Running time:  1 hour.

Alex Medina, Neysa Lozano. Credit: Zombie Joe.

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