Beasts from the Sea is a short immersive walk-through performance by Zombie Joe’s Underground Theater, and the latest in a rapid-fire string of productions including Urban Death for Kidz and Dad. Directed by Zombie Joe, Brandon Slezak (Together Again), and Denise Devin, Beasts drops us into the chaotic underwater world of Nebulox, a sort of cross between Atlantis and (of course, being a Zombie Joe’s production) Hell. The show runs every fifteen minutes, and includes very gentle – although unusual and hilarious – physical touch. It is recommended for ages 13 and up, forgoing any of the nudity or violence that the company is known for.
Beasts from the Sea’s narrative is an intentionally disjointed, disorienting collection of character interactions. Nebulox seems quite a stressful place to live in, with most of its residents screaming all hours of the day about the mystical forces that surround them. The sights and sounds of Nebulox borrow equally from science fiction and folk-horror; we meet both deep-sea aliens and cackling witches. Beasts features one of the most elaborately decorated sets seen at ZJU, with beautifully scrappy makeup and costumes, as well as painted walls, interesting lighting, and props strewn everywhere.
The show is billed as a haunted maze, which isn’t exactly right. Zombie and crew blend formats like a painter blends oils on a palette – a little of this, a little of that. It’s more maze-like than other recent walk-through performances (e.g., Cemetery of Tortured Souls) in which we traverse the various nooks and backrooms of the ZJU theater. But it’s decidedly less of a maze than Urban Death Tour of Terror, a complex arrangement of garbage bag walls which can be legitimately challenging to navigate. Beasts is somewhere in between, more like a walking dark ride (and feeling like a spiritual successor to their hit DarkDark-RideRide). In this era of immersive theater-labeling and genrefication, do we need a “maziness” scale? Semantics aside, the physical transformation of the space is incredible, and the team’s ability to seemingly expand the square footage of the theater with every show boggles the mind.
The cast, though quite difficult to discern through the darkness and chaos, are uniformly excellent and bring an absurd amount of energy. Its female cast members in particular stand out as a group, delivering an impressive array of vocalizations including shrieks, singing, and gibberish. One memorable scene features Robert L. Dobson Jr. as a shark-like creature boasting of his conquests while showing off his massive bodybuilder frame and booming voice. Another scene involving two eager fish is simply too good to spoil.
If there’s a criticism here, it’s the running time, which barely reaches the twelve-minute mark. While there’s a lot packed in, it’s a rare ZJU show that makes the unmoving $15 ticket price feel like a bit of a stretch. It’s bound to be the oddest twelve minutes of your day, but may be tough to recommend to friends across town. The world of Nebulox is more than interesting enough to support a longer show, in which we can learn more about the heroes and villains of this strange place.
Beasts from the Sea is undoubtedly one of the silliest Zombie Joe productions in quite some time. Outside of the physical darkness, as well as a few classic jump scares, the show is colorful, hilarious, weird, and at times even cute. If you’re in the area and need a quick hit of insanity, Beasts from the Sea is worth a dive.
Find out more about Zombie Joe’s Underground and Beasts from the Sea on their website and Facebook page. Buy tickets to Beasts from the Sea here, and follow our Event Guide for more horror and immersive entertainment throughout the year.
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