Spencer Korcz, Stephen J. Koller, Joey Arena, Kenn Parks,Sterling Pratt, Riker Hill, & Stephanie Zoeller Hall in Star Trek: Boldly Going WAY Too Far. Photo courtesy The Alley Theater.
Star Trek: Boldly Going WAY Too Far
By Sterling Pratt, Joey Arena, Kenn Parks and Scott Davis
Directed by Sterling Pratt
Review by Eli Keel
Entire contents copyright © 2016 by Eli Keel. All rights reserved
The Alley Theatre certainly has an oeuvre, and weird mixes and mashes of pop culture is a big part of their output. Their remount of Star Trek: Boldly Going Way To Far (BGWTF) is a pretty typical Alley piece, buoyed by steady direction and charming lead characters.
I don’t consider myself a hardcore Star Trek nerd. I’ve seen a good-sized chunk of each series, all of The Next Generation (TNG), and most of the movies. But I can’t quote trivia, I don’t have a favorite episode, and I’ve never dressed up as any of the characters. That being said, I had a swell time, and if there were some jokes I didn’t get, there were plenty that landed with me just fine.
BGWTF hangs it’s plot around a series of interactions with a cosmic being known as The Continuity Guardian, an all powerful being that can control time and space. Kirk, Spock and Bones, and the rest of the original series crew start as the centers of the action, but are joined at various points buy almost every other iconic character from the various series. The plot structure allows them to revisit some of the favorite scenes and villains from all the series.
The Continuity Guardian is a not too subtle jab at a certain kind of fan- so obsessed with what version of franchise is “right.” I personally would have loved to see that idea pulled at and used a little more.
That the spoof’s conceit is so close to various episodes of the series is only the first indication that this was written by hard-core nerds, with a deep love for the material. The program credits Sterling Pratt, Joey Arena, Kenn Parks and Scott Davis for the script. It’s my understanding that there is a decent amount of new material in the current iteration, but I missed the original 2014production.
Pratt’s direction keeps the action running smoothly, and the jokes flying fast. It’s quite a feat given the number of scene changes and huge number of characters we see, all brought to the stage with manic zeal by the 10 person cast.
Parks, a frequent Alley contributor sits in the onstage Captain’s chair as James T Kirk. He’s smart enough to only lean heavily into his William Shatner impression for the first few lines of the show. The rest of the time he is paying homage to the spirit of Kirk more than trying to mine laughs from goofing on the actual mannerisms.
Staying true to the spirit of the characters seems to be the cast’s general approach, a wise choice presumably encouraged by Pratt. Joey Arena isn’t trying to recreate Leonard Nimoy in his performance as Spock, though he does able comic work, with frequent dry observations of the zaniness.
That original series’ famous trio of main characters is filled out by Steven Shotts as Bones. Shotts is turning in solid work as the grumpy loud mouth doctor, and brings a fire to his many asides, gleefully pointing out what moments reference what TV show or movie.
This threesome forms the backbone of the play, and BGWTF really works the best when Kirk, Spock and Bones are onstage together, tapping into the comic potential of the trio. In those stronger moments Shotts, Parks and Arena aren’t aping Star Trek so much as they are giving us a mix of old school vaudeville and 80’s buddy cop film.
For my money, I could have done without a couple of the lesser cameos and watched this trio more. Quark is fine in Deep Space Nine, but I don’t really need to see him for two scenes. Other fan favorites like Data, seem to appear so that the writers can make all the jokes and observations about Data that we’ve all been thinking since TNG premiered in the late 80’s.
But the many in jokes are a big part of the fun, and while they may slow the pace a touch, those jokes are what the audience came for, and it’s what they get.
Like last summers Deadpool, which comedically functions in a lot of the same ways as BGWTR, the jokes fly so fast, and the meta humor is so speedily delivered, that about a third of the jokes can miss, and you’ll still be laughing all night.
The production also includes some fun audience participation. It actually sort of heightens the sense that this isn’t a play; it’s a bunch of friends -the actors and the audience- hanging out and playing Star Trek. Which is actually the perfect thing for this production to be. It’s a room full of people having a great time, and sharing their love for the franchise.
Star Trek: Boldly Going WAY Too Far
July 28 – August 20, 2016
The Alley Theater
615 West Main Street
Louisville, Kentucky 40202
Eli Keel is a Louisville based playwright, poet, storyteller, and freelance journalist. He has been published in Word Hotel, his plays have been produced by Theatre  and Finnigan Productions, and he was invited to read his work at the 2014 Writer’s Block. He is a frequent contributor to LEO Weekly and Insider Louisville, where he has been given the (informal) title of “Chief of the Bureau of Quirk.”