Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Visit to a Small Planet—Lakewood Theatre Company—Lake Oswego, OR

Alien Perspective

The comedy by the famous political/historical writer, Gore Vidal, is directed by the equally famous, local actor/director, Tobias Andersen.  It is playing at their space, 368 S. State St., in Lake Oswego, through August 13th.  For more information, go to their site at www.lakewood-center.org or call 503-635-3901.

What would we look like now to an alien being from a totally foreign environment?  My guess he would take one view of our situations on Earth and conclude we weren’t worth bothering about, because we seemed hell-bent on self destruction, and would deduce that they found no intelligent life here!  In the late 1950’s, the time-frame of this story, it might look slightly more subdued than that.  But, nevertheless, we would still spell doom.

This play was made into a silly, worthless film many years ago starring Jerry Lewis and most of the political edge was removed for his antics.  The actual stage version had the brilliant Cyril Richard (remember Captain Hook from the Mary Martin, “Peter Pan”) in the lead role.  This time out, we have Jeremy Southard as Kreton, the alien from a faraway galaxy (or dimension).  He seems a cross between Dick Shawn, Paul Lynde and Jonathan Winters.  He is more subtle than Lewis and that is probably more the way Vidal saw it.

Anyway, as to the story, we have him landing in a typical, middle-class home of the era, ala an Ozzie & Harriet-type of family.  There is the hubby, a TV commentator, Roger (Todd Hermanson), and his sanitized wife, bedecked with pearl necklace and hoop skirt, Reba (Julie Elizabeth Knell).  Of course they have a perky daughter, just ripe for the 60’s rebellion era, Ellen (Melissa Sondergeld), and her country, farm-boy sweetie, Conrad (Paul Harestad).  And let us not forget the feisty, family cat, Rosemary (Dusty), who has some uncanny abilities of her own.

Of course, we also have to have the political connection, as their best friend is a General in the Army, the puffy, Tom Powers (Erik James), and his trusty, meek Aide (Kaleb Hood).  And also, to round out things, we have a mysterious stranger, Delton 4 (Ethan LaFrance), adding to the confusion.  Mix them all together and you have the beginnings of a scary new world.  But how to set things right again is the question.

It seems that Kreton is not unlike some of the aliens Star Trek envisioned, like the enigmatic “Q,” having no concept of human emotions or purpose.  Once the alien perspective is added to this concoction, then weaknesses, prejudices, and strengths are revealed and lessons can be gleaned, that is, if all survive.  For more information, tune in to this episode.  And you’ve probably never seen anything funnier that a military man with laundry and his future vision for it.

The story may be a bit dated but it does truly reflect that era, as it should be.  Andersen is an actor’s director and it shows in the cast he has chosen, they all epitomize the artificial roles that were pictured on the boob tube of what we were supposed to be like.  And his handling of the comic bits, rather than being zany, as Lewis portrayed them, are subtler and eerily more creepy that way, as if they were skirting around the truth.

Southard does well in keeping his character in check, as it could have been over-blown but works much better this way.  James, a season veteran, is perfect as the General and his comic bits with the washing machine are priceless.  This is a show for the whole family.  And, although a comedy, it does have some serious digs as to how we view things, as seen through an outsider’s eyes.

I recommend this show.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.