Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Captain Dan Dixon Vs. The Moth Sluts from the 5th Dimension (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

In North Hollywood,  Zombie Joe's Underground has done its fair share of undead-related plays. Currently they offer one that blends science fiction. Carnivorous sirens men cannot resist, green of hue and sultry of nature, eager to persuade the crew of Earth's first interstellar spacecraft to take them back to our world...

Oh, and did I mention they're go go dancers?

A delirious blend of cheese, cheap 1960s science fiction and more than a few dashes of Beach Blanket Bingo, the play pretty much tells you what's in store with the title--Captain Dan Dixon Vs. The Moth Sluts From The Fifth Dimension! Dan Dixon, commanding officer of humanity's first starship the Magellan, is the lantern-jawed, broad-shouldered gentleman one might expect--a blend of James West, James Kirk and John Wayne. Played by Matthew Sklar (who also wrote the piece) he's more than anything an American WWII officer in the space age.

His crew includes a female android Uranaia (Gloria Baraquio) in gold lame in love with her Captain , a huge-brained mutant named Dr. Canigulus (Jonica Patella a veteran of an earlier production) to whose insights no one pays any heed of course, and a host of others including the ship's cowboy cook named Chow (David Wyn Harris). All relentlessly white Americans even the ill-fated Hashimoto (Vincent Cusimano). In testing the quantum drive which hurls Magellan into the fifth dimension, they accidentally pick up some hitchhikers--a clutch of beautiful green women in hibernation.  Batting their eyes, literally cooing and purring, they claim their world is destroyed. Their leader? Empress Syphla (Katherine Canipe), whose wings are the most vast and
whom the others call "Mother."  Moths include Antheraea (Courtney Bandeko), ZJU regulars Caroline Montes (who plays Cecropia as well as choreographing the dance numbers) and Corey Zicari as Luna (she also had a hand in helping design the costumes). Lastly is Polyphema (Vivi Varon).
Photo Credit: Joe-Munoz-Varon

One of the aliens actually isn't a Moth, but a caterpillar--Vickibelle (Heldine Aguiluz)--and apart from the furry bikini instead of silver pasties, she lacks even vestigal wing. Even her antannae are crooked. All together now--awwww! Any wonder she's the nicest of the group, even genuinely falling for one of Magellan's crewmen!

Naturally, there's far more to their story than the tale of hapless refugees! Not the least--where are the males of their species?

Hint--there aren't any. Nor have there ever been!

Potential mates (meals/incubators) from Magellan include Jerry Chappell as Casey, Tyler Koster as Virgil (who finds Vikibelle finally too attractive for words) and R. Benjamin Warren as the aptly-named Sterling.

But what really makes this worth seeing is not the sheer cheesy fun of it all. Nor the pasty-clad green seductresses in silver hot pants. No, what makes this really worth the price of admission remains its success as a satire. Coincidence the ship's contains only two females, one a machine and the other a virtual neutered mutant? Or that Captain Dan doesn't want to hear what his science officer has to tell him. The whole thing can be seen as a paranoid reaction to both strong women as well as aliens of any kind--with a note mentioned again and again that the only way to win in this situation is for somebody to commit genocide. Yet--and herein is something vital--the show never gets preachy. Even the hardest, most serious question asked ("Did we really give up on war? Or did we just win?") comes totally in character without any pat answers offered. In a lot of ways this reminded me of Young Frankenstein that way.

Photo Credit: Joe-Munoz-Varon
Not that it is perfect. The rhythm of the whole thing feels ever so slightly 'off,' as if energy isn't quite carried through when the blackouts between scenes.  Each scene felt as if it were an end, rather than a continuing story.

At the same time other rhythms and performances were generally spot on. My personal favorite was when the Moth Sluts were alone, speaking to each other in snarls and clicks, seeming like a weird pack of wild dogs. Until a human crewman entered the room--then they all cooed and purred again, going from scary aliens to exotic coquettes in about half a second! Frankly, one sure sign of how well the show worked overall was that I (and pretty much everyone else) saw the "surprise ending" coming a mile away. Yet it still worked, still got the mix of horror and laughter intended, and we all left the theatre smiling.

Captain Dan Dixon V. The Moth Sluts plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8:30pm until September 14 at 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood CA 91601. You can make reservations by calling (818) 202-4120. I for one hope it will earn an extension.

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