How much fun can you have telling a story?
If you’re telling a well-known kind of story — say, a noir detective tale — and you’re doing it in a well-known style — say, as a radio play — the sky’s pretty much the limit.
And the latest gang of players to tread the boards at Zombie Joe’s Underground reaches for the stars, in a wild and wooly whodunit, Lonely at the Top.
Their tale unfolds in that metropolis of amorality, Hollywood. The world’s greatest film director lies dead on the cutting room floor — and who ya gonna call? Why, the famously inept private eye Rex Fontana (Adam Neubauer) and his comely, brainy assistant Babs (Aling Zhang). Of course.
We meet all the usual suspects — the sexy, wailing widow (Marilou Rabahi Seaton), the decedent’s arch-rival (Vincent Miller), the spurned protegée (Casey Ellings), the mafia-linked club owner (David Wyn Harris), and the sultry songbird (Margaret Glaccum). Bumbling along, a step behind our hapless hero, is the PR-conscious top cop (Shawn Davis).
And punctuating the tale are announcements — some genuine, some spurious — from the glory days of shameless advertising, pumped over the airwaves by tireless announcers (Doug Haverty and Davis).
With a lively script (Andy Shultz) and brisk direction (Shulz and Harris), Lonely at the Top frisks through a forest of familiar tropes and a few sweet surprises. The actors have contagious fun with their roles, and the bouncing balloon of comedy is never dropped.
It’s a hugely successful light entertainment. What better way to spend a hot summer night in the City of Lost Dreams?
Lonely at the Top, by Andy Shultz, directed by Andy Shultz and David Wyn Harris.
Presented by Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre Group, at the ZJU Theatre, 4850 N. Lankershim Blvd.
Fridays at 8:30 om, through August 28th.
Tickets: <www.zombiejoes.com> or (818) 202-4120.