A puzzling sci-fi mystery that blends together 1950s B-movie space tropes, alternative universes, sci-fi themes, avant-garde schtick, worm-holes through juke boxes, and a troubadour, Ray Gun Say0nara is confusing, funny, and puzzling. With moments of brilliance that can’t quit overcome its overall attempt to be too many genres at once, and overlong, it strains under its own weight.
The Nadirians have placed the wrong twin on Earth – one that was meant to solve the planet’s ills. But it becomes clear that after a stupefying decline, they have made a mistake, and are compelled to sequester the evil twin on a distant planet. Buck Law is dispatched to extract the Good Twin from the planet Newsylvania. Despite his name, Brad Mayhem is the good twin, at one point seduced by sirens like an intergalactic Odysseus. The players converge in a metaverse called The Casa Mezca, a celestial casino where a Devil Deck serves as a kind of interplanetary space-time tarot. There’s also a concept called The Prom Hypothesis. And the action, as revealed in the last sequences, doesn’t take place on Earth but a world frozen into a kind of 1950s-style “space woo-woo”. Periodic songs delivered without a whit of camp on an acoustic guitar only serve to further muddle this complicated plotline.
With its Twin Peaks-style absurdity and the piece trimmed, this could be a camp hit, a kind of interstellar opera. But this viewer was left more confused than delighted, wading through a mass of tropes to find the meat and puzzled by the musical interludes. It has pockets of inspiration; the concept of “Fiction Fields” and diabolical self-driving cars. There’s a raygun shoot-out sequence which delightfully goes into slow motion as everyone breaks into song, dying and leaving the stage. The 1950s son is even flashy-thinged, a tip to Men in Black. Playwright Steven Wright Tenney employs language which recalls a combination of pulp fiction and noir, passages and phrases repeated but the action no more clarified as a result.
Standouts in the massive ensemble are Sean Leigh Phillips as the swashbuckling spaceship captain Buck Law; Laura Pruden as the mom, her 1950s mom hysteria delivered hysterically; and Justy Kosek as the teen heartthrob Brad Mayhem. Janet Mervin’s costume designs are appropriately out of this world, absurd at times and fantastically creative. And the interstitials with their layered repeating overlapping chants are close to transcendent, bordering on Dadaist performance art.
- Drama / Musical
- By Steven Mark Tenney
- Directed by Janet Bentley
- Photo credit: All Foote III
- Cast: Featuring Timothy Babcock, Dan Chen, Ivette Dumeng, Alexa Elmy, Olaf Eide, Melina Finck, Jacquelyn Avery Greenspan, Erin Grant, Theresa Johnson, Kelsey Lea Jones, Lizzie Kehoe, Justy Kosek, Joel Henry Little, Joyce Miller, Sam Ogilvie, Jean Louise O’Sullivan, Laura Pruden, Sean Leigh Phillips, Mike Roche, Randall Rodriguez,, Jenna Vezina, Rich Wisneski
- The New Ohio Theatre
- Until: 22nd 2019
- Time: 120 minutes with intermission