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The One-Hour Twilight Zone: Live
with a special appearance by The Superfriends
Directed by Laura Enstall
Magic Smoking Monkey Theatre
May 10, 2014

Maxwell Knocke, Suki Peters, James Enstall Magic Smoking Monkey Theatre

Maxwell Knocke, Suki Peters, James Enstall
Magic Smoking Monkey Theatre

This show is what would happen if you threw The Twilight Zone, The Superfriends and several hundred more pop-culture references into a mixer and then poured them out on stage before a crowd of enthusiastic spectators. The latest offering from Magic Smoking Monkey Theatre, St.Louis Shakespeare’s more offbeat sister, The One Hour Twlight Zone: Live is a fast-moving, low-budget nostalgia trip that both salutes and lampoons its subject matter, presenting outrageously embellished versions of three episodes of two classic TV shows, with a brave, energetic cast who try out seemingly every possible joke they can find while taking the audience along for a truly wild ride.

In a very brief presentation that actually runs for slightly less than an hour, the cast play various roles in presenting two of the best known Twilight Zone episodes, with a comic twist. “To Serve Man” tells the story of a government code-breaking specialist (Jaysen Cryer) and his efforts to decipher a book delivered by the seemingly benevolent Kanamits (represented by a smug, imposing Ian Hardin wearing a robe and plastic Star Trek headpiece), an alien race who introduce all sorts of technological improvements to this planet and invite unwitting Earthlings to visit their planet. This time, however, the “To Serve Man” book is titled in Piglatin, there’s a government translator who never gets anything right, and one guy (Alex Ringhausen) playing all the various world ambassadors.  In “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”, the nervous passenger (Hardin) plays the role relatively straight, but his wife (Suki Peters) is a loopy ditz, the flight crew and passengers are all self-absorbed, and the supposedly scary Gremlin (Jaiymz Hawkins) is a clownish troublemaker wearing a fuzzy teddy bear hood. References from decades worth of pop culture are thrown in for good measure. These proceedings are all hosted by the stone-faced Rod Serling (James Enstall), accompanied by some clever wall-projections (including Twilight Zone trivia shown before the show begins) and an extremely enthusiastic cast, all of whom seem to be having a whole lot of fun.

As fun as the Twilight Zone sequences are, however, the real highlight of this show for me is the Superfriends segment, based on an episode called “The Time Trap”. Maybe that’s because I watched that show on Saturday mornings as a child, but I think it’s just the overall craziness of it that makes it so enjoyable. With all the actors playing multiple roles, as both super heroes and super villains, and aided by the hilarious projections including a video game-style fight sequence between Giganta (Betsy Bowman) and Apache Chief (Cryer), this segment is a hyperactive, satirical treat. The super heroes are given broadly cartoonish characterizations–a glib, self-centered Superman (Maxwell Knocke), an airheaded cheerleader Wonder Woman (Peters), a fearless and single-minded Aquaman (Ringhausen) armed with a SuperSoaker, and, my favorite, the gruff Batman (Enstall) and tirelessly perky Robin (Michael Pierce).

The action all moves very quickly, the jokes are of the pay-attention-or-you’ll-miss-them variety, and the presentation isn’t particularly polished, but that’s part of the charm of it all. Visually, the costumes and sets all look cobbled together from whatever the designers (Katie Donovan for costumes, Linda Lawson-Mison for the set) could find. It’s not particularly sophisticated, but I think that’s the point. The whole show has a kind of improvised look and atmosphere that adds to the overall whimsical tone of the piece. It’s a crazy, endearing, multi-referential comic delight  that will transport audiences to a dimension of laughter. The One Hour Twlight Zone: Live is not a show to think too deeply about. It’s just a quick, speedily-paced, colorful and nostalgic good time. I look forward to seeing what Magic Smoking Monkey Theatre comes up with next.

 

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