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Spencer Korcz, Marc McHone, Jori Calland, Hannah Wold, Kenn Parks, Denny Grinar, Kristine Renee Farley, & Joey Arena. Photo: The Alley Theater
Star Trek: Boldly Going WAY Too Far; Again: The Final Frontier
By Sterling Pratt & Joey Arena; additional dialogue by Ensemble
Based on an idea by Kenn Parks
Directed by Sterling Pratt
Review by Keith Waits
Entire contents are copyright © 2018 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
How apropos that The Alley Theater should end its 25-year run with a remount of one of their most popular shows; one that reflects their penchant for parodies of pop culture icons and captures the loose, audience-participatory aesthetic of many of their productions.
Star Trek has been satirized so much since the original series premiered in 1966, that it requires a certain “foolhardy courage” to jump into this comedy pool, but director and co-creator Sterling Pratt packs the jokes and gags in so tightly that anything that falls flat passes by so quickly that you aren’t given time to linger on it, and the ones that land perfectly are greeted with enthusiastic laughter and applause. The best are even given boisterous cheers.
Many are predictable but the familiarity plays well and affirms the show’s credibility. No self-respecting ST spoof can overlook the low hanging fruit of Captain Kirk’s reputation as an intergalactic lothario, or Dr. McCoy’s infamous line, “He’s dead, Jim!”, here delivered multiple times with an especially delightful fourth-wall breaking glee by Marc McHone. And an obvious time-phase device allows a crossing of the timelines that introduces Commander Riker, Data, Worf, all played by Spencer Korcz (always a fearless utility player), Jean Luc Picard from ST: Next Generations, Quark from Deep Space Nine, and Captain Janeway from Voyager (a bold feminist presence from Hannah Wold).
This is round three of this show, and the script is updated to include references to the current iteration, Star Trek: Discovery, as well as many jokes that reference current events since the last production two years ago. In fact, the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach pulls in an abundance of references to other science fiction and fantasy franchises: Star Wars, Quantum Leap, Firefly, Lord of the Rings, and probably a few that I didn’t catch. There is a ripe opportunity for some commentary about Babylon Five that was passed up; its hard to believe Mr. Pratt didn’t at least consider it. Perhaps he thought it a little too obscure except for heretic fans of Bab 5 like this reviewer.
Production design is appropriately cardboard and cheesy (an uncharitable but common description of the original series), with special effects mostly of the colored light variety that is a characteristic of late 1960’s television sci-fi. Several audience members are recruited to appear as red-shirted Security Officers, and if I need to explain that, I have to wonder how you came to even be reading this review.
That the title for version #3 has been expanded to embrace two colons is emblematic of The Alley Theater’s gift for excess: just enough to push the bounds of good taste but not enough to completely screw the pooch. The whole thing feels like one big long comedy sketch, and the ensemble looks to be having a lot of fun, even though they must be running full out behind the scenes on some of the costume changes.
That excess and joy feel right for the final production of this company, as does Kenn Parks as Kirk, returning for one more turn spoofing the male fantasy heroes of the latter part of the 20th century. He is aided and abetted by Andy Szuran as Kirk’s Stunt Double, and the two engage in some on-target competitive William Shatner impressions that nicely reflect the self-referential aspect of Shatner’s own journey with the character through the last 50 years. Joey Arena is correctly cerebral as Spock, and for that matter, as Picard, although he cannot seem to avoid an uncharacteristic smile or smirk as the former.
Denny Grinar indulged himself with relish in Scotty, Quark, and one of those absurd aliens with nearly omniscient power that was a frequent presence on the original series, Riker Hill was Khan, (and others), costumed with a t-shirt hosting an image of the classic Ricardo Montalban cleavage from ST II: Wrath of Khan over the actors comparatively slight frame that is one of the more inspired visual jokes in the show.
Jori Calland is a new face to me, but her Lt. Uhara (among others) was handled with assurance, and her work here made me curious to see her do more. Likewise, Kristine Renee Farley is a fresh presence, although she is given less opportunity to shine as an actor playing Lt. Sulu and Sulu of Nine (don’t ask). Jacob Arnold proves an able and game utility player, most memorably when he and Mr. Hill are hippy-dippy aliens near the end.
The whole thing is just so goofy and unpretentious that you have to at least smile. Opening night included enough Trek nerds that even the insideriest stuff didn’t go by unnoticed. One person sitting just behind me complained when the lead-in music for act two, William Shatner singing “Common People”, faded out: “No! Let it play…I LOVE that song!” It was that kind of crowd.
Which means it was a typical Alley Theater audience. People have always been are drawn here as much for the particular appeal to a specific pop sub-culture as for any interest in live theatre in general. I cannot claim any empirical evidence suggesting that such audiences then ventured out to experience the work of other local theatre companies, but for 25 years The Alley attracted an unorthodox mix of the youthful demographics, introducing them to an unwieldy mix of original cultural satire, modern classics, and some material that no other theatre company in Louisville was willing to take on (sometimes with good reason). Whatever the results, it is a space about to be unoccupied in this community.
Star Trek: Boldly Going WAY Too Far; Again: The Final Frontier
July 19 – August 4, 2018
The Alley Theater
615 West Main Street
Louisville, Kentucky 40202
Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, where he is Managing Editor of their Artebella blog, and host of LVA’s Artebella On The Radio on WXOX-FM 97.1/ ARTxFM.com. But spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.