Plan 9 from Outer Space
nytheatre.com review by Andrew Rothkin
October 9, 2010
Only a madman would resurrect Plan 9 from Outer Space, the Edward D. Wood, Jr. 1958 science fiction yarn, widely regarded as the worst film ever made. The results of transforming this terrible tale for the stage could surely produce only one of two results: the worst play ever staged, or just possibly, under the right eye, ear, and hand, a masterpiece of fun....
What is the opposite of rolling over in one's grave? Rolling under? Sitting up? Well, whatever it is, Ed Wood should be doing it—because Frank Cwiklik is the right madman for the job, and his wacky, irreverent celebration of spacemen, zombies, and all things kitsch is in many ways an improvement upon the original... and the best time I've had in the theatre in quite some time.
The convoluted plot, in a nutshell—and nuts are an apt analogy—revolves around spacemen and spacewomen who come to earth to stop us from creating a "Solaranite" bomb—the ultimate doomsday device which would surely destroy the universe. Their plan to stop us? Plan 9, of course—resurrecting our dead to create panic and widespread mayhem. (Makes you wonder what plans 1 through 8 were.) For more details on the film, check out our good friends over at Wikipedia, or better yet, see the film for yourself!
Cwiklik's vision of the piece is a loud, rock-n-roll campfest from beginning to end, sexy and funny and filled with clever moments. The brilliantly designed projections—on a back screen, which lifted from the center at key moments, as well as images on three smaller monitors in the house—are a delight for the senses, aligning with, or sometimes commenting on, the action on the stage. The sound design and music are riotous great fun!
As for the performers: Where to start? The problem with most camp and bigger-than-life styles of theatre is that, even in the hands of skilled directors and seasoned performers, the actors rarely perform in the same style; someone is always too big and someone is always too small.... Surely, with 16 actors, they have to be all over the place... Not so! The entire cast, alternating back and forth, around, and in between grandiose, real, and sometimes purposeful "bad acting," all seemed to be in the same play (a rarity, I assure you)—and they seemed to be having as much fun as I was! From Douglas Mackrell as the narrator to Cedric Jones as Space Commander Bunny to Bob Laine as Inspector Clay to Peter Schuyler as Detective Carson to... well... let's just say that the whole cast is comprised of standouts: Ann Breitbach, Lindsey Carter, Alexandra Cohen-Spiegler, Adam Files, Bryan A. Marshall, Victoria Miller, Craig Kelton Peterson, Justin Plowman, Jerard-James Craven, Tom Reid, Stewart Urist, and Kristin Woodburn (as the horrific, yet sexy Zombina) each adds his or her own comic sparks and zings to the well-executed buffoonery and silliness. Of course, comedy only works when the actors take it seriously, and outside of several hundred winks, nods, nudges, and comments on their actions and lines, they took it all very seriously, indeed.
Even when there was an obvious technical problem, the actors pulled it off like it was part of the show, including us in on the inside joke.
Elaine Jones created the "props, special effects, and cool stuff." I am not really sure exactly what she did, as opposed to what Cwiklik designed himself—but whatever she made, it rocked!
I think the piece could be a commercial hit in the city—say midnight showings in the Village for weeks (or months? or years?) to come.
Will DMTheatrics' reinvention of Wood's Plan 9 from Outer Space go down in theater history alongside the likes of Chekhov, Shaw, and O'Neill? Probably not. But if you are looking for a night of good laughs, get your butt down to Brooklyn (grab some beers, if you're so inclined), pop into The Brick, and catch the inmates—I mean, ensemble—doing their thing!