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A CurtainUp Review
By David Avery
Unbeknownst to Echo, her father is also listening to noise from space, albeit of the non-random variety. He is attempting to negotiate the appearance of a galaxy-wide rock star name Ulinia Swords (Nakia Syvonne). Earth apparently hit the galactic radar when it began broadcasting music via radio, and classic rock has taken the galaxy by storm. This music has also inspired another group of space musicians called Citizens of Earth, led by the singer FluhBluhBluh (Lucas Revolution). Yes, that really is the character's name. They have traveled to Earth to play music and escape the evil designs of Ulinia Swords, who turns out to be more of an evil dictator than a rock goddess. Go figure.
The band members pick up Echo and are horrified to learn that Ms. Swords is on her way to Earth. They decide to try and prevent her arrival by destroying the machine Echo's father is using to contact the evil queen, which is called a Pan Language Omni Translator. P.L.O.T. for short. Get it? I guess M.A.C.G.U.F.F.I.N. was too difficult to make an acronym out of, even if it would have been funnier.
The performances are all pretty solid, and the songs are brief and spaced (heh) apart enough to stay out of the way of the byzantine and absurd plot. All the actors have competent enough singing voices to pull off the fairly simple vocal parts. The songs, most with tinges of recognizable pop melodies, are kind of witty at times, with lots of astronomical references (i.e., "I Need My Space," "Dark Matters").
The music is provided by on onstage band consisting of four local professional musicians (Rawn Erickson II, John Hanson, Duncan Mackay, Paul Wyderka) who also portray the alien band members. In fact, they account for the show's strengths. Some of the blocking is hindered by the small stage, but I liked the way a stage hand just brazenly comes from backstage to move, adjust, and abscond with microphones and props, much like you would see at a real concert.
While the play is hyper-aware of modern technologies with lots of cultural references to texting, cell minutes, social networking sites to lend credence to the suburban teenage angst, it isn't all that funny. Jokes get overused, punch lines fall flat. The play overall seems too desperately anxious to be a Rocky Horror Picture Show type of production (minus the sex). Instead it comes off as a bad SNL sketch that lasts two hours.
Granted, the second act flows better once the major plot points have been introduced in the ponderous first act.. But if you're going to put together an absurdist play that mocks Earth's civilization, it's important to have more direction, if not a point, to sustain it.
It should be said that some of the costumes are as funny (Fluhbluhbluh wears a red spandex suit and speaks through a sock puppet) and some of the sci-fi in-jokes worked very well (the Citizens of Earth's home world is called HangFangDangWangTang — I think). Nakia Syvonne's depiction of the evil Ulinia Swords reminded me of the campy incarnation of Ming the Merciless (in a good way). Too bad that the starlight is eclipsed by a moon of banality.