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Forbidden Zone



 
I don't know what made me watch the movie.  It was new to DVD, I had met Richard Elfman in passing somewhere, and I was beginning to discover the joy of the Mystic Nights of the Oingo Boingo.  It wasn't any one thing that compelled me to rent the DVD, it was a moment in time that was just right.

Watching Forbidden Zone is like passing out from too much sugary cereal in front of a television blasting Saturday Morning cartoons.  Cartoons made before the 1950s.  Do you remember how the sound of the television would seep into your little head, mix with your id and form dreams--indescribable dreams?

Sacred Fools have captured the manic, insane energy of Richard Elfman's original.  Indeed, they have done more than merely animate a fossil.  They have infused new life into a thirty year-old midnight movie. Michael Holmes is to be commended for staying faithful to the letter and spirit of the film, while making much needed adjustments to translate it to the stage.  Director Scott Leggett ably brings the movie to the stage.  Clever transitions cover relatively difficult cinematic shifts in location, and the sense of where we are and when is never lost.  The Choreography is lifted more-or-less wholesale from the movie.

The band is perfect.  Present on stage the entire time, breathing life into Danny Elfman's music and a healthy dose of Cab Calloway's songbook, theirs is a presence at once fully known yet never too intrusive.  There were moments when the music overpowered the mic'ed vocals, but those moments were fleeting.

The ensemble doesn't back down an inch from the demands of the source material.  Forbidden Zone is a libidinous piece; it is all appetite in the most visceral of ways.  But it's a playful lustiness, and the players dance effortlessly through Elfman's surreal Garden of Earthly Delights.  There is a strange sort of innocence on display; a carnival atmosphere in the ancient sense of the word.  This is a revelry of epic proportions.  I want to live in the Forbidden Zone.

Stand-out performances:  Marz Richards channels Danny Elfman while placing his own stamp on Satan.  Rebecca Larson is adorable as the wayward Frenchie.  Alyssa Preston brings moxie and a powerful voice to the Queen.  Really, the entire ensemble is top notch; fully committed and engaging.

I nearly forgot to acknowledge the design work, which is a testament to the effectiveness of the universe created onstage.  From a design perspective, Forbidden Zone the movie is a natural for the stage.  After all, the movie was an attempt to capture the magic of the Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo's live performances.  With handpainted backdrops, cartoonish makeup and thrift-store costuming, copying verbatim would be both sufficient and forgivable.  The Fools have captured the look of Elfman's film, faithfully rendering the expressionistic design work while putting their own unique stamp on the production.  Costumes, set, make-up, lights--all aspects of the design are suitably amped-up for a modern audience yet none of the design choices feel out of place.

Sacred Fools have accomplished something extraordinary.  This is the level of work that all Equity waiver companies should strive to do, this is the bar.  If the stars align and the company decides to extend further or bring it back for another run, get thee hence to the hell mouth.