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'Hamlet, Prince of Darkness' Haunts North Hollywood

Polonius (Frank Leone), Claudius (Jim Cox) and Ophelia (Clare Wess Yauss) all end up just as dead in ZJU's take on "Hamlet"
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"There are more things in hell, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

This gleeful distortion of Hamlet's admonition could fairly be posted over the entrance to Zombie Joe's Underground itself as a tidy summary of the company's functional ethos. And it also well encapsulates playwright Richard Nathan's riotous new parody of the ubiquitous tragedy, now titled "Hamlet, Prince of Darkness," which ZJU is presenting at 11 p.m. every Friday night through the end of June.

It only takes about an hour for Nathan and director Denise Devin to thoroughly deconstruct Shakespeare's entire play from beginning to end. But what an hour! Claudius is a Satan-worshipper. Laertes studies abroad under the tutelage of Dr. Frankenstein. Polonius reemerges as a zombie after he takes Hamlet's sword through the gut. A guy named Gus the Ghoul (who never seems to make it into any of the movie versions of "Hamlet") arrives at a key moment. And the show-stopping demonic dance number in the middle of it all is hysterical.

Underlying this silliness is Nathan's very smart reimagination of "Hamlet," which stays pretty much faithful to the original story line even as it rips apart the old familiar dialogue. The fiendly confines of ZJU effectively amplify the play's macabre comedy, as the production flirts along, but never crosses, the line into camp territory. And the company's always non-traditional theater audience ends up howling well before the chimes at midnight bring the proceedings to a close.

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$15 tickets available by calling (818) 202-4120.