I’ve seen a lot of strange things over the years at Zombie Joe’s Underground Theater, a frolicking nude crossing guard, a malfunctioning sex bot, pimple-popping fetishism, but with their new show Bogeyman, they’ve set out to prove the most disquieting terrors are those you can’t see. Bogeyman is a 20-minute journey of sound and touch through a nightmarish hellscape experienced almost entirely blindfolded. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with this one, ZJU has a tendency to bring you inches from some very risque action but generally maintains the familiar “don’t touch them and they won’t touch you” policy but make no mistake, there is extensive physical contact throughout this show.
After your party enters via conga line into the theater, each of you will be grabbed by a performer, all of whom have their own unique story of suffering and death, which together form a patchwork from which you build a mental model of the world around you. This is what makes Bogeyman so effective and in many ways elevates it above what can be achieved with a visual experience. Lacking any point of reference, any ability to track the space you’re in, this intimate theater space takes on functionally infinite dimension as you’re passed between actors, who between their cries and suffered wails tell you stories of the nightmares which surround you if only you could lower the blindfold to see.
While most of your time will be spent moving and listening to these stories there are also moments you come to a stop and are encouraged to do some touching of your own as you fumble around in the dark, grabbing at the actor’s naked flesh. I didn’t end up touching anyone’s junk but the potential is very much there if you get a bit more adventurous. I won’t spoil the myriad of interactions that can occur throughout the show but I was surprised at just how physical some of the performers welcome you to get, allowing for contact that would easily get you kicked out of more traditional performances. While most of your experience will be blindfolded, there are a handful of moments where you are permitted to lower them and enjoy vignettes of abstract horror that would be very much at home in the theater’s signature production, Urban Death.
Overall, I was hugely impressed with the immersive world they were able to achieve without the benefit of visual stimulus and I would recommend Bogeyman as highly as some of ZJU’s most acclaimed productions like Urban Death and Blood Alley. The only element that could be enhanced to take this show to another level is perhaps greater use of props and textures to add additional tactile variety. I’m not saying I want them to add skinned grape eyeballs and spaghetti brains but there is a great potential for exploring the power of touch through further iterations of this show which I can only hope we will see in the future.
Tickets are available through November 23rd at zombiejoes.com