Serial to Stage: Chapter 1 – Flash Gordon/Commander Cody

by The Alley Theater Ensemble

Reviewed by Keith Waits

Copyright © 2013 Keith Waits. All rights reserved

If one spends much time thinking about it, the idea that an audience under the age of 50 finds relevance in material inspired by movie serials from more than seventy years ago is the height of incongruity. But the 1970s began the modern age of a particularly American form of self-referential popular culture that has proved surprisingly durable, if increasingly facetious.

The Alley Theater is inarguably the leading progenitor of this kind of enterprise, with their dizzyingly condensed Star Wars trilogy and other pastiches of this age’s cinematic phenomena, including riffs on The Matrix and Point Break. With this Flash Gordon/Commander Codydouble feature, the first of 13 monthly chapters, they have mixed equal parts kitsch and improv comedy, added appropriately cheesy makeshift costumes and cardboard props, mixed it up with a tossed-off attitude that wards off any pomposity and let it fly without apology.
Not that the creative team doesn’t take its silliness seriously…exactly. But the cabaret setting of the performance space (one of three available) establishes the proper atmosphere. In the curtain speech, Alley Artistic Director Scott Davis recommended that patrons avail themselves of the opportunity to drink a cold beer during the performance because “…this s**t is just funnier if you do.”

The acting troupe engages in a clownish but studied amateurism that seems predicated on the premise that if they are having fun, perhaps you will too. Martin French and Kimby Peterson are especially adept at treading the fine line that keeps such off-the-wall material grounded and entertaining: funny but not stupid. And there are some choice video trailers showing exactly the sort of thing that is being lampooned onstage, as well as some vintage concession stand commercials (although, curiously, the concessions were closed when these were shown, frustrating my own desire for a return trip encouraged by the animated ads).

The Alley mounts perfectly serious productions of relevant contemporary theatre as well, but if the curtain falls anytime after eight o’ clock, you are likely to find a very different animal in residence in their basement environs. Check it out if you dare.

Serial to Stage: Chapter 1 – Flash Gordon/Commander Cody

January 11, 18, 25 @ 10:00pm

The Alley Theater

1210 Franklin Street

Louisville, KY 40206