We here at We Are Indie Horror love the local theater and haunt community in the Los Angeles Area. One of our favorite places to frequent is Zombie Joe’s Underground, whose dark and twisted immersive show play year round to plenty of fans looking for a good scare between Halloween seasons. Their latest show, Tortured Souls, is currently playing two shows nightly on Friday and Saturday nights through March.
The show is an interestingly avant-garde approach to, well something. To be completely honest, while I was entertained and immersed by the actors incredible and intense performances, I have no idea what exactly was going on. When it comes to avant-garde, sometimes things just don’t click in the brain.
I would like to point out that this is at no fault to the cast and crew at ZJU, but rather a fault of my own. Jut because the story was difficult to grasp doesn’t mean it’s not there. I was not expecting such a rich and confusing experience, and I found myself entranced by the movements of the characters rather than the words they were saying.
After being led into the dark, we were instantly transported to another dimension where tortured souls walk among us. The experience is totally immersive, there are no seats or designated pathways. Once the show starts the audience is free to roam around the space, taking in each characters unique personas. From there the show intensifies, with visuals of lust, sex, and dismissal from society fill the room.
Throughout the show, actors lose articles of clothing until several are completely nude. If you do not like the idea of naked men running above you while you lay down on the ground, this show is NOT for you. Another point of the show I did not understand. Were they getting nude to make us feel more uncomfortable? I don’t think so, at least I didn’t feel it was that way. Perhaps it was the spirits getting more vulnerable, shedding off layers of themselves until they are bare, naked, and beat up.
By the end of Tortured Souls, I wasn’t sure how to feel. A genuine haze of avant-garde, thundering score played by a live musician, and several naked people left me in a mental whirl that lasted a day or two. It took a while to decide whether or not to write this review, or what I would say. Needless to say, I came to the conclusion that I would for two reasons.
First, just because I didn’t get it right away doesn’t mean the show is worthless, in fact, it’s quite the opposite. I didn’t dislike the show, I just didn’t totally understand all of it. The fact that I couldn’t stop trying to figure it all out means that it clearly stuck with me, which means it is absolutely worth the mention.
Second, the cast was absolutely incredible. While I found myself questioning the story, I never once questioned the actors. It didn’t dawn on me they were actors until after the show while talking to my fellow audience members. They all give intense performances and give themselves over to the show, something that is hard to come by, even on the biggest stages.
My advice, if nudity doesn’t offend you, go to this show. Experience something unusual and strange. Challenge yourself to understand something that isn’t at your fingertips. Tickets are only $15, and it all goes to support this amazing theater company. While Tortured Souls wasn’t exactly something I understand, you can bet your last dollar I’ll be back for the net one.