Review of Not With Monsters
In the region of greater Los Angeles known as NoHo a black box theatre known as Zombie Joe’s makes its home. They do a variety of plays there, many original as well as solid sprinkling of classics. A new show opened this last weekend, a one-act musical that includes no less than five vampires in it, two of them famous. In fact, this marks the only time I can think on when those two have ever appeared together on stage…!
Not With Monsters, I’ve since learned, was slapped together with a mere six rehearsals. When director Sebastian Munoz told me this, I was shocked. True the show looked just a tiny bit ragged, but with that few rehearsals it shouldn’t have even looked complete! Instead, it had more verve and flow than a few shows I’ve seen on Broadway (not to mention more than a few touring companies and professional regional theatres)! Alas I got no chance to meet writer Adam Neubauer, but hopefully he heard how the audience literally cheered by the end of the show!
The premise is both complex and simple, as well as delightfully silly. Writer Bill (Cory Wysynski), feeling a massive case of writer’s block, neglects his girlfriend Anna (Caroline Montes). Suddenly he gets a visit from his future self (Matt Sklar) who insists he’ll never write again if he doesn’t take and use a time traveling pen. Yes, a pen. Future Bill says they can be bought at Ninety Nine Cent Stores (“The future is AMAZING!” he notes). So current Bill begins his odyssey, going to meet a variety of fictional monsters. First up–Frankenstein’s monster (Roger K. Weiss) and his over-sexed Bride (Corey Zicari). Seems things are not as we might assume, not least because the monster feels Mary Shelly glossed over his story. Plus, he’s gay. And the Bride isn’t happy about it.
Next up–DRACULA himself (Enzo Kim) who has ambitions to be a singer, a fact that Mina (Ren Harris) finds frustrating, and Bill finds unpleasant as the Count gives a rendition of “My Girl” with his three Brides serve as backup singers. Before too long he also encounters a Mummy who when unwrapped turns out to be a kidnapped young Elizabeth Bathory (Laura de Lano) in what surely counts as the wackiest interpretation of the “Blood Countess” ever. She comes across as a cross between Betty Boop and Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz! Her reaction to the accusation of bathing in blood to stay young and beautiful is “That’s so gross!” and “Who needs that?” A trifle vain, this Elizabeth.
My favorite of the characters Bill meets is The Invisible Man (Tyler McAuliffe), not least because he seems the smartest. When Bill suggests he use his invisibility to go to the Green Room at the Strip Club he asks “What’s the point? You’re already in the club. They’re already naked.”
But the meat of the plot arrives when he learns who kidnapped Elizabeth Bathory–Jack the Ripper! Because (in one of those zany plot twists worthy of Ghostbusters or Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein) this turns out to be an alternate Future Bill! A older, wiser, less-attractive version of himself who lost Anna and is resolved to punish the world! Only Bill can save the entire human race from the insane, murdering Future Bill with some help and advice from the other Future Bill who gave him the time-traveling pen! All of which eventually calls for another musical number!
Yes it is silly. And very funny. It is almost as if somebody who’s a big fan of Dr.Who decided to do their own remake of The Monster Club. And it got out of hand, deliriously so!
So like I said, we have five vampires: Dracula, his three Brides/Backup Singers, and Elizabeth Bathory. Mina is not a vampire in this, just a very frustrated wife (she and the Bride of Frankenstein could have compared notes). As a bit of trivia, this same company produced a more serious play about Elizabeth Bathory a couple of years ago, covered here at Vampires.com
The title? Like much else in this show, it becomes something of a gag, and I don’t want to spoil those of you who get a chance to go see Not With Monsters. It runs for through November 9, 2012 at Zombie Joe’s 4850 Lankershem Blvd. (818) 202-4120. This is not a show that turns down almost any chance at a joke. Yet what has become tired in the Scary Movie franchise seems fresh and wonderfully ridiculous on stage and played out by this cast of actors in a live theatre.