nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
August 17, 2009
The idea underlying Venus is timely and fascinating: a group of nine young Americans, in the not-so-distant future, decide to leave their dying and decaying planet and colonize the planet Venus. The first ten minutes or so of the show are given over to laying out the setup for the audience—through a series of "documents," these twentysomething revolutionaries explain why they've left Earth (ecological catastrophe) and, in a generalized but thoroughly convincing manner, how they've overcome some of the obvious obstacles (e.g., extreme temperatures) to create a viable human settlement on Venus. Maps are passed around the audience, along with other artifacts of varying degrees of pertinence. The stage, so to speak, is set.
Unfortunately, what follows is less original and persuasive than this compelling prologue. A brief interactive segment comes next: here members of the cast sit with members of the audience, eating pancakes (their means of sustenance here on Venus) and taking questions from audience members. The improvising did not go as smoothly as one would hope: the personas were only intermittently sustained by the actors and the lack of a well-defined and clearly-agreed-upon back story became evident. After this section, Venus resumes as a non-interactive show, now much more traditionally a sci-fi romance, with the plot turning on the sudden arrival of a young woman (though not an Earthling), who takes an unexpected interest in Mark, one of the colonists. Will Mark follow this young woman out of the colony, imperiling himself and possibly the others? Or will his comrades convince him to stay?
It's a well-crafted tale, but I was surprised that Venus morphed into something so conventional after its tantalizing opening. (Note that this reflects my own personal bias, and may not match yours.) The stagecraft is nicely executed by the members of Superhero Clubhouse (you can find all of the show's credits on their website). A brief post-show announcement informs us that Venus is part of a projected cycle of environmentally-aware plays about the planets; I found enough to admire in this production to make me want to see whatever they come up with next.