When the evil King Xayno of Planet Argor uses his nefarious Gravity Ray to send the Moon hurtling towards Earth, no one can stop him except… Space Captain Rocky Lazer! Space Captain: Captain of Space is a spoof/deconstruction of 30’s era science fiction serials with their low-budget, death-defying, cliff-hanging adventures. It’s part live stage show, part multimedia extravaganza, but 100% loving homage to the ridiculous antics that kept our forefathers enthralled during Saturday matinees at the movie house.
Playwright Jeff Sproul hits all the right notes with Space Captain; the plot is pure Space Opera with a dashing hero who must save the world from cackling space monsters. Along the way there are seductive space princesses, a damsel in distress, and a plucky danger-prone sidekick who meets his apparent death every ten minutes. Not a cliché is missed in this 90 minutes of silliness.
Heading up the cast is Matthew Wise as Rocky Lazer who fully captures the distinct speech patterns of 1930’s movie stars. Wise and several other performers nailed the hammy cadence so often seen in films from the time; notable among the supporting cast were Jeremy Banks as a swashbuckling space buccaneer (“Ha ha!”), Mike Wirsch as the put-upon flunky to an incompetent villain, Michele McNally as the evil cosmic princess, and Matt Sears as a noble Squirrel Man.
The stage has a large projection screen upstage and this is used liberally to show black & white footage of Rocky Lazer and his adventures. This is an easy way to work in special effects that would be too difficult to do live on stage like rocket boot swordfights, the interiors of space ships, and establishing shots of exotic space-faring locales. The video (Directed and Produced by Jeremy Mather) is authentically cheesy, including some deliberately terrible effects and editing that mock the way old-timey movies would show giant space monsters (Or in this case an ordinary housecat shot from a low angle with tiny prop spears poking at it).
Complimenting the film is the use of puppetry (Designed by Anna Paniccia). This is used for various monsters on stage as well some of the epic space battles. The antics done live onstage are also presented in black & white, with all of the puppets, props, costumes, and set pieces being various shades of grey.
Actors also wear make up intended to simulate the tones of a black & white film. Unfortunately, this aspect of the production didn’t work, and most of the performers just looked like they were slathered in grey ash.
Halfway through the show, Space Captain switches from a goofy parody to a smarter deconstruction of the Space Opera genre. This transition in tone results in a lull around halfway through the piece. By this time, many of the repetitive gags have grown stale, but the new plotline of Rocky trying to outgrow his space hero persona hasn’t kicked in. But this slow spell only lasts for a few minutes before things get back on track and the energy picks up again.
Lindsey Moore Sproul’s Directing uses plenty of skillful gags, including the repeated reference to “Inviso” technology. These jokes involve one character screaming “Look out he’s got an Inviso-whatever” or such, then the cast miming a battle with unseen weapons, or props. These were implemented very well, as was the repeated slapstick joke of sidekick Chip Skipper getting killed in nearly every scene; even though the audience knew it was coming, it still got a laugh every time.
Space Captain: Captain of Space is a strange and silly show, but the company behind it, No Team Productions has put a great deal of effort into realizing this multimedia event. Plays through September 15th at the Kraine Theater on the Lower East Side. More information can be found at www.NoTeaProductions.com.