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Spacemen from Space

Ian W. Hill's homage to B-movie serials is decidedly ambitious but overlong and not nearly funny enough. logo
Cara Moretto and Adam Swiderski
in Spacemen from Space
(Photo courtesy of the company)
Cowboys, aliens, gangsters, G-men, rogue scientists, robots, flying superheroes, and masked villains -- Ian W. Hill's Spacemen from Space, at the Brick Theater, contains nearly all of the classic archetypes from the bygone era of B-movie serials.

Part homage, part parody, the show is decidedly ambitious -- and three hours in length -- but grows increasingly tiresome as it wends its way through multiple plot twists. By the end, it doesn't seem as if Hill is interested in much more than creating a mash-up of the various elements that comprise a story of this kind.

As the play begins, the weather across the world has gone wild except in a small town in the American Southwest known as Rancho Bardo, home to Cowboy Adam (Adam Swiderski), an all-American hero and singing superstar of a popular radio program. It's soon revealed that the ill weather is part of a plot for alien conquest, and that Rancho Bardo is immune due to a mysterious element buried somewhere underground.

Rancho Bardo consequently receives a large amount of attention from a variety of parties, including the jet pack-wearing superhero Rocket Brannon (James Isaac), a couple of government agents (Stephen Heskett, Alex Amery), a pair of double-dealing thugs (Ethan Angelica, George Bronos), girl reporter Chickie West (Ali Skye Bennet), various scientists, and the mysterious Lavender Spectre -- played by multiple actors in hooded robes (that never actually look anything close to lavender), with his true identity revealed late in the show.

The work is divided into six parts, played one after another (with only one intermission). The first two episodes are primarily exposition and character introduction, but eventually half of the heroes head off to the alien planet to confront its ruler, Queen Oneida (Cara Moretto), while the other half stays on Earth to defeat the Lavender Spectre. Each individual episode ends with a cliffhanger, and then the next one begins with a short recap and replay of the preceding scene. It's a gimmick that's only amusing the first time around.

The most successful players in the production go for sincerity rather than camp. Swiderski's Cowboy Adam has a low-key charm and "aw shucks" demeanor, while Trav S.D. injects a rather maniacal glee into his role as Doctor Butterworth. Douglas MacKrell also puts in a strong performance as a scientist who comes under the sway of the Lavender Spectre.

Unfortunately, most of the other performers either comment on their roles instead of inhabiting them, or simply telegraph their intentions too broadly and without much style. In addition, there's very little chemistry between the actors who play the three primary couples that emerge during the course of the story.

Hill is not only the show's author, but also its director, designer, composer, and an actor in the production. His low-budget sets and props do a good job approximating what a mid-twentieth century view of rocket ships and alien devices would look like, while Karen Flood's costumes are also nods to previous sources, such as a definite Flash Gordon influence to the aliens' outfits.

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