Playwright-director Jonas Oppenheim is one clever, funny guy. Among his past treasures is a site-specific interactive/guerrilla performance piece, I’m Going to Kill the President, in which a prank call to the White House resulted in a police raid on the venue – was it real or was it theater? Oppenheim’s Hamlet Shut Up! placed a gag on literature’s most verbose pontificator.
In his new play, The Mother Ship, Oppenheim offers an homage to British bedroom farces of the 1960s and '70s, where infidelities and their underwear-clad perpetrators hide in closets, then come and go through perpetually slamming doors. Oppenheim takes the homage one step further by having his play’s central married couple (Bryan Bellomo and Aviva Pressman) stunted in her obsession to bear children.
Abducted by aliens, they each find themselves, at separate times, on or around a gentle parody of the Starship Enterprise. There are some very funny cameos, with quick costume changes to differentiate Earthlings from the extraterrestrials.
This idea could and should work, but here it doesn’t. Tito Fleetwood Ladd’s deliberately cartoon set can’t contain the stage’s wide berth, so that the comedy dissipates. In the performance I saw, the problem was compounded by some of the actors’ flagging cue pick-ups, but the biggest problem was nature conspiring against the farce. Heat necessitated the use of a whirring air conditioner throughout the performance, forcing the actors to compete in vain with the loud drone of white noise. My hunch is that this show deserves another chance, at a more hospitable time of year.
Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Drive, E. Hlywd.; through Aug. 2. (310) 281-8337, www.sacredfools.org.
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