Last month when I went to Zombie Joe’s for “Blood Alley”, I wasn’t sure what to expect as it was my first time experiencing a Zombie Joe performance. Needless to say, I left the event speechless, if not a bit horrified, but absolutely moved. When I got an invite this month to attend Zombie Joe’s newest adaptation of “Urban Death”, I couldn’t say no, as few things come around that are this unique and visually haunting.
Like “Blood Alley”, I feel like “Urban Death” is about what you take away from the experience, so this review will be from my perspective. Where “Blood Alley” was incredibly dark in nature, “Urban Death” has some spots of humor and light-heartedness when tackling dark subject matter. What I really liked about “Urban Death” was that it tackled issues that are seen throughout today’s society: politics, motherhood, sexual orientation, gender roles, etc. I felt like there was something for everyone to relate too and instead of hiding these issues, they are right smack in our faces which at times can be jarring. There was a scene in particular that really stayed imbedded in my memory long after the show was over. It was of a young man, stripped naked, held against his will by two older men. It’s alluded that this young man has been kidnapped due to his sexual orientation and is being tortured by these older men. They caress his naked flesh with a shotgun, before bending him over, and finishing the deed with a machete. I’ll leave that visual in your head as you contemplate how the vignette ended. It’s harrowing to watch but you can’t look away. You need to see how it ends, no matter how disgusting and upsetting it may be.
One aspect that makes “Urban Death” so unique is the intimate setting. The venue is small which allows you to be immersed within the story that is unfolding. As with “Blood Alley” the show is told through a series of vignettes. The actors come out and set up their scenes in pitch black with only small fluorescent markers located on the floor that you really can only see if you look close. I have no idea how they do it, but I give them props because working in pitch black is not easy. The actors makeup and costumes are askewed and disheveled which shatters the image of perfection that society tries to put on us on a constant basis. I loved seeing all the imperfections, whether small or large, as it shows the audiences that there is no such thing as being perfect and the harder we try to attain that, the bigger the consequences are that we may have to face.
I think the most important thing that I took away from “Urban Death” is actually something that truly terrifies me in real life. We are so often terrified by monsters and creatures that are made up from our imagination or shown to us on the big screen. However, sometimes the real monsters are those people that we think of as friends, the ones that we would never expect would be capable of a heinous crime. And sometimes, the monsters live inside of us, rearing their ugly heads when we may least expect it. “Blood Alley” did a fantastic job of showing us the underbelly of Victorian gothic alleyways where vampires roamed freely and killed and degraded those that got in their way; whereas, “Urban Death” shows us the secrets that people can keep and the acts that humans are capable of. Overall, “Urban Death” is a show that needs to be seen. It’s done beautifully and the passion of the directors and the actors is seen through every movement they portray. The show deals with subjects that need to be addressed in today’s society and it’ll leave you wanting to more.