by Jim Ridley
Plenty of outer 10-year-olds took in last night's performance, and it's safe to say that by evening's end, all ages were on the same giddy wavelength. But hearing little kids and jaded 50-year-olds booing a nefarious hypnotist in unison is only one of the pleasures writer-director Jason Neulander's cheery sci-fi spectacle affords. A synthesis of vintage radio theater, Saturday-afternoon serials and 1930s space operas, given a (frankly sometimes unnecessary) visual component by more than 1,200 projected comic-book panels, their Book 1: Target Earth pits a tough-talking journalist, her wide-eyed sidekick, and a mysterious ... librarian against a deadly invasion by the slimy, befanged hordes of the planet Zygon.
Picture something like a Prairie Home Companion adaptation of Raiders of the Lost Ark, with rat-a-tat dialogue delivered at Howard Hawks pace, and you've got the general idea of Intergalactic Nemesis. The voice cast of three (featuring Danu Uribe as the reporter and Zero Charisma's Brock England as sidekick Timmy) does the work of the entire Warner Bros. backlot, with Jeffery Mills getting belly laughs every time he converses with himself in lightning-fast vocal costume changes. (His belligerent Frenchman is particularly a hoot.) All the while, Foley artist Cami Alys steals scenes with her human-octopus sound work at a table full of implements — love those didgeridoo hypnosis effects! — and Kenneth Redding Jr. at his keyboards does the work of an entire orchestra. All that's missing is a woozy theremin.
Our advice, if you go (and you should): Scream, holler and boo right from the beginning. The first act took some time finding its footing, and it may have been because the audience initially seemed a little reticent. It also may be because the multi-media staging, ingenious though it is, makes it hard at first to concentrate on the narrative. (It helps if you watch the storyboard imagery and leave the players to engage your imagination with the soundtrack.) The second act, however, is a breathless riot of chases, hair-breadth escapes and loopy plot twists delivered with hilarious brio, and the audience's cheers boosted the players' energy to something like hyperspace.
Our only complaint about Book 1: Target Earth: having to wait a year for Book 2.