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[whitespace] Sarah Green, Breton Nicholson Space Jam: Sarah Green and Breton Nicholson ring some outrageous changes on 'The Tempest' in 'Return to the Forbidden Planet.'

Planet Pranks

San Jose Stage Company spoofs every genre in sight in 'Return to the Forbidden Planet'

By Julia Smith

IT MUST BE a millennium thing. Galaxy Quest is a hit in VHS/DVD format. Over at City Lights Theater Company, they're running Resident Alien. Now San Jose Stage Company opens Return to the Forbidden Planet by Bob Carlton. If we are, indeed, entering a new Atomic Age, count me in. After all, what's more fun than ray guns, woo-woo-woo sound effects, and an infantile misunderstanding of astrophysics? Fans of the 1956 film Forbidden Planet are advised to abandon any hope of recapturing the innocence of that sci-fi classic here (although the play's posters do use misleading artwork from the movie). This is what you might call a crazy quilt--with an emphasis on the word crazy--of the complete works of William Shakespeare, MST-3K and a slew of early-'60s AM radio hits.

The plot involves the adventures of the crew of Scientific Survey Flight 9, under the leadership of Captain Tempest (Daraj Maxfield), which crash lands on the planet D'Illyria. There they encounter the mad scientist Prospero (Kevin Blackton), Prospero's sexy roller-blading android servant, Ariel (Breton Nicholson), and his luscious sax-playing ingenue daughter, Miranda (Sarah Green). Got that? Doesn't matter. Once on board, Prospero bemoans his abandonment by his dangerous ex-wife (Jeffra Cook, in a dual role), while the ship's cook (Jon Lee Rabette) pines for Miranda, a gigantic pink space octopus threatens them all and the two other supporting players (Amy Meyers and Randall Frizado) earn their keep filling in the blanks.

In between the judicious use of amusing in-house video footage, the cast quotes Shakespeare at large, wears wigs that look like they fell off the pages of a Dr. Seuss book and breaks into song at the drop of a dilithium crystal. And what songs they are! "Only the Lonely," "Shakin' All Over," "Who's Sorry Now," "Shake, Rattle and Roll," "Wipe Out" and more. To keep the mood going, the house speakers pour out the theme music from the defunct TV series Lost in Space and The Outer Limits during intermission, as well as the quintessential pop tune of 1966, Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'." No Tang or Space Food Sticks at the snack bar, though.

While longtime Stage Company associate and director Rick Singleton certainly understands the pitch of the material, the tempo could be tighter. Moreover, there's no point in having all those Top-40 tunes from the early '60s if the miniskirted girl crew isn't going to do the Pony or the Swim or the Frug in unison once in a while. This represents a major lost golden opportunity. Still, the opening-night crowd was certainly in the mood to overlook the odd dead headset mic, meandering stage blocking and the occasional overstepped line. Return to the Forbidden Planet is selectively funny and always good-naturedly goofy, which is exactly what's right with it.

Return to the Forbidden Planet plays Wednesday-Saturday at 8pm, Sunday at 2pm through June 25 at the Stage, 490 S. First St, San Jose. Tickets are $16-$25. (408.283.7142)

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From the June 8-14, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2000 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.

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