Adrienne Martini reviews The Intergalactic Nemesis: Book One: Target Earth

It’s probably easier to explain what The Intergalactic Nemesis: Book One: Target Earth isn’t.

It isn’t a standard Broadway spectacular, with glam costumes and nubile dancers. It isn’t a fraught family drama that is instant Tony bait. And it definitely isn’t an angst-filled monologue about coming of age.

What I can unequivocally state is that it is live theater about, well, an intergalactic nemesis who is poised to conquer 1933’s Earth. All that stands in the way of our complete destruction are a hearty few who are in on the plot: Timmy, a cub journalist, Molly, a tough-talking Pulitzer Prize winning reporter, and Ben, a mysterious librarian.

But Jason Neulander’s creation isn’t a play or a musical. What it most resembles is a live-action graphic-novel radio drama and slide show. Think Garrison Keillor’s Guy Noir with alien sludge monsters.

The stage is simple. Three actors – each of whom plays multiple parts – stand in front of three old-timey microphones. A Foley artist is surrounded by the tools of his trade, which include a box of macaroni and cheese, a balloon, a small red door and two Jacob’s Ladders. A musician provides a (mostly) piano soundtrack. Above the performers is a screen, onto which comic book panels without dialog or sound notes are projected.

It shouldn’t work. Two hours of still pictures, live sound and talking people shouldn’t be as captivating as it is. And, yet, it all comes together to tell a fantastic tale that is long on imagination, sense of wonder, and nifty gadgets.

Perhaps what makes The Intergalactic Nemesis successful is its ability to blend all three mediums without ever making one feel more important that the others. At times, the visual images take lead storytelling duties. Other times, the actors or the Foley carry the weight. Watching how each aspect influences the other is a show in its own right.

The uniqueness of the presentation wouldn’t mean squat, however, if the story itself weren’t such fun. No, there isn’t much meat here; no one muses on what it means to be human. But it is stuffed full of epic Indiana Jones-style action that talks to the inner child-like geek a lot of us nurture — and makes it eager to see what will happen in Book Two.

The Intergalactic Nemesis: Book One: Target Earth is currently touring the U.S. and recently was featured on NPR.

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