Like Vaudevillian showmen, two or more cast members break into a song and dance routine. The music is catchy, the choreography is tight, and the ensemble moves as one, in the way only the most rehearsed dancers can do. There is a difference though. As they do their moves, one thinks Frankenstein or zombie—and certainly not gazelle or Giselle. Unnaturally stiff, they dance waddle more than leap, holding their arms out like quadruped paws trying to adjust to biped status. And as they sing, they seem like puppets lip synching—and in fact, they are!
These are the locals in a rural Southwest town called Sandrock—which has little in it other than sand and rock—until aliens from outer space with flying saucer mechanical troubles land there. From the opening song piped in from outer space, We Are Out There, this parody of the film by the same name, is a lite parable teaching us to be more tolerant of difference. Along the way to this life lesson, we see the aliens take over one townsperson after another. Later we see these aliens in all their green tentacled one-eyed glory, replete with gag lines about how their knee is their face, and how their vomit sounds are meant to be laughter.
It's a gag fest, from beginning to end. Fans of sci fi novels will hear the reference to Ray Bradbury (author of the book upon which the movie that this play spoofs) as a pun and not as an homage to the pioneer of that literary genre. All is a tease, like the double meaning song I Can’t Figure Out Men, crooned by a lovesick human and an extraterrestrial. Songs like Focus on That might become a primer tool referenced by advice columnists on how to navigate your extended family Thanksgiving Dinner during our divided political times.
It’s the talent on stage that truly brings these songs, dances and zingers alive, in this writer’s view. Indeed it will likely be much easier for you to appreciate that, because the opening night crowd first fans’ over-the-top enthusiasm frequently made it difficult to feel it for ourselves. OUCH!
Chicago Shakespeare Stagecraft Pulls Out All The Stops
Read the program notes and you get what a blast it was for Joe Kinosian (book and music) and Kellen Blair (book and lyrics) to pen this Vaudevillian feeling charmer. Look at the performers and you imagine this production has been a fun fest for them and Director Laura Braza every step of the way. Even with all this going for them, it’s the touches by the creative team that steal the show, in this writer’s view.
Perhaps taking cues from the gag line to “Put on Your 3D Glasses” to remind of the play’s B movie origins, Scenic Designer Scott Davis creates a desert landscape framed by telephone poles and cutaway cacti that makes us feel like we have been catapulted into a junior high school student’s 2D diorama project. The Video/Projection Designers (Rasea Davonté Johnson and Michael Salvatore Commendatore) both do the required clues on place and setting to move the story along, but also give us a one-eyed cyclops and flailing tentacles that paves the way for the diaphanous green-limbed aliens to make their stage entry (Costume Design: Mieka Van Der Ploeg). Spoiler Alert: Perhaps it’s Lighting Designer Heather Sparling who does the most to put us in the mood, and especially in the play’s final moments, with light tricks rocketing us out of the theater and into the greater universe.
Diehards who think of Ray Bradbury as the granddaddy of meaty science fiction should be forewarned that this really isn’t your play. If you love camp, gags, talent and theater works that don’t take themselves too seriously, this is YOUR show.
Jonathan Butler-Duplessis Borney / Frank / Coral / Alien-Jimmy / Little Borney
Veronica Garza Maizie / Thalgorian-X / Alien-Jane
Alex Goodrich Sheriff Matt Warren / George / Prakaxias / Smitty
Sharriese Hamilton Heckie / Grommulex
Christopher Kale Jones John Putnam
Andres Enriquez Understudy
Ciara Hickey Understudy
Ryan Stajmiger Understudy
Joe Kinosian Book and Music
Kellen Blair Book and Lyrics
Laura Braza Director
Dell Howlett Choreographer
Tom Vendafreddo Music Director
Scott Davis Scenic Designer
Mieka van der Ploeg Costume Designer
Heather Sparling Lighting Designer
Nicholas Pope Sound Designer
Rasean Davonté Johnson Co-Projections/Video
Mike Commendatore Co-Projections/Video
Macy Schmidt Orchestrations and Arrangements
Amy Herzberg Associate Director
Grace Dolezal-Ng Assistant Director
Kevin Reeks Assistant Music Director
Bob Mason Casting
Jinni Pike Stage Manager
Kate Ocker Assistant Stage Manager
June 22–July 31, 2022
Sundays- 3 pm
Wednesdays- 7:30 pm
Thursdays- 7:30 pm
Fridays- 7:30 pm
Saturdays- 2 pm and 7:30 pm
Chicago Shakespeare Theater
800 E. Grand Ave. on Navy Pier
About the Author: Amy Munice
Amy Munice is Editor-in-Chief and Co-Publisher of Picture This Post. She covers books, dance, film, theater, music, museums and travel. Prior to founding Picture This Post, Amy was a freelance writer and global PR specialist for decades—writing and ghostwriting thousands of articles and promotional communications on a wide range of technical and not-so-technical topics.
Amy hopes the magazine’s click-a-picture-to-read-a-vivid-account format will nourish those ever hunting for under-discovered cultural treasures. She especially loves writing articles about travel finds, showcasing works by cultural warriors of a progressive bent, and shining a light on bold, creative strokes by fledgling artists in all genres.