How old you are would seem to be an issue in “Zombies from the Beyond,” the James Valcq chestnut that opened Friday night at Skylight Music Theatre.
After all, the show is a send-up of the C class group of science fiction movies that were a staple for many a boy who clutched a dollar to get into a movie, get popcorn and a soda, and watch with wide-eyed wonder at a world of people from outer-space.
The high point for all of this came when Dwight Eisenhower was the president – the 1950’s. Those of us who were little boys back then are a long way past grown up now and some of us have faltering memories.
With Pam Kriger at the helm, aided and abetted by a sparkling cast, there is no need for memory. Just sit back, get comfortable, and let yourself go with all the silliness storming from the stage.
Along with those special movies, the play also pokes fun at the paranoia that gripped those time, the fears of aliens and nuclear bombs that drove us to build bomb shelters,learn how to hide under our school desks and wonder at all this talk of going out there into space to see what was REALLY up there.
Here’s the story of Valcq’s play which has had a run in New York and has been produced over 600 times the world over. Valcq is Wisconsin’s own and is co-Artistic Director of the esteemed Third Avenue Playhouse in Door County.
Major Malone (Norman Moses) runs the Milwaukee Space Center where he and his right-hand man, Rick Jones (Rick Pendzich) keep watch over whatever is going on in space. Charlene “Charlie” Osmanski (Meghan Randolph) is the secretary in the office, dedicated to working but heartbroken about her inability to get a man.
“Take a memo type a letter.
Life would be a whole lot better.
If I could find a man.
Take a memo, tue a letter
I don’t need an Irish Setter.
That isn’t what I plan.
Finds it scary
Going through life without a man. “
She has a chance, though, when delivery boy Billy Krutzik (Joe Capstick) arrives. He wants her but she won’t have anything to do with a mere delivery kid.
Once we have met the bumbling crew protecting us, we are introduced to the Major’s daughter Mary Malone (Kathryn Hausman).
Going through life without a man. “
Once we have met the bumbling crew protecting us, we are introduced to the Major’s daughter Mary Malone (Kathryn Hausman).It is obvious from the earliest moments that while she is a woman in a man’s world, she has the kind of knowledge and ability that is far superior to the testosterone around her and she rather shyly offers to solve problems of photography and astrophysics among other skills.
Enter the egghead scientist, Trenton Corbett (Matt Frye), come to add his big brain to the quest to conquer space and protect America should there be an attack from the world beyond. Corbett soon becomes infatuated with Mary, even though she has a relationship with Rick.
And finally, when the spaceship that has been hovering lands, we meet Zombina (SaraLynnEvenson). And what a meeting it is.
She has arrived to control the men of Earth and dos so with a shrieking soprano that hits notes that perhaps have never been heard in the Cabot Theatre in its entire history.
What follows is a convoluted path of good vs. evil and love, longing, and treachery,
This cast is uniformly spectacular, Ms. Kriger is wise enough to give each actor a time to shine and each actor has moments to shine. Wisconsin is blessed with two outstanding director/choreographers in Ms. Kriger and Molly Rhode
This marks the second time in two years that Ms. Kriger has directed Ms. Hausman in a production, having staged a remarkable “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change.”
Ms. Hausman has a beautiful and expressive voice and a commanding stage presence, combining sex appeal with an innocence that is full of appeal. She can act, sing and dance and there is a spark in her every performance and there is hope that she will find more work on Milwaukee stages.
Mr. Moses may well be the most versatile actor in Milwaukee and here he creates a character who is stuffy and overbearing, perfect for the Major.
Mr. Pendzich is like a young Mr. Moses and his duplicitous American soldier/Russian spy is perfect.
Mr. Frye clearly draws the familiar nerd with a heart and Ms. Randolph is as funny and touching as a loyal team player and a lonely woman who has had her heart repeatedly shattered.,
Ms. Evenson is overwhelming, broadly drawing this character who is so threatening that she is both funny and frightening.
Mr. Capstick is a Chicago who is also a tap dancer. His energetic dance as he tries to convince Ms. Randolph to date him was spectacular. He floated across the floor, up stairs, and on a desktop, all while singing to the object of his desire. He brought the house down, with a first act standing ovation.
There is not much serious about Valccq’s but it’s so well constructed, directed and acted that it’s a show with a lot of fun, no matter how old you are.
Zombies From the Beyond runs through February 18th.
Production credits: Playwright, James Valcq; Director and Choreographer, Pam Kriger; Music Director, Kurt Cowling; Scenic Designer, Aaron Dyszelski; Lighting Designer Stephen Roy White; Costume Designer, Shima Orans; Sound Designer, Megan Henninger; Production Stage Manager, Daniel J. Hanson; Production Photographer,Mark Frohna.