Friday night opened Alley Theater's new play by Kenn Parks, Star Trek, The Original, Deep Space, Next Voyager, Generation, Enterprise 9, a send-up of the Star Trek universe. The original and groundbreaking sci-fi series, plus its several spin-offs are lovingly mashed up into a rather manic narrative that has Captain Kirk trying to untangle the hopelessly confused timelines of all the Starship Enterprise adventurers. If you've ever tried to sort out the time-travel scenarios rife in the Trek universe then you'll appreciate the silliness that ensues as Kirk and his crew randomly cross paths with later Enterprise characters.
The play's author, Parks, also stars as Kirk, capturing William Shatner's famous bluster, his bizarre. stilted. diction. Thensuddenoutburstsofemotion and, of course, the wounded-animal roars of "Khaaaaaannnn!!!" that punctuate the show as he chases his arch-nemesis across time and space. Joey Arena does an admirable job with Mr. Spock's smoothly unspooling speech, uninflected except for a shading of natural superiority. This elegance of expression also serves him in his dual role as the unflappable Captain Picard. Cast members Denny Grinar, Scott Davis, Christie Troxell, Sterling Pratt, Alex Hume, Kimby Peterson, and Spencer Korcz also juggle many roles -- you'll see Worf, Sulu, Chekov, Riker, Troi, assorted aliens and borgs, and last but not least, Khan Noonien Singh, in all his be-wigged glory. Kudos as well to the good sports in the audience who volunteered to expire as Red Shirts when needed.
All the action takes place on a box-like set that mostly serves as the Enterprise bridge, though the captain's chair and ship controls are often whisked to the edges so the stage can double as whatever mysterious planet the crew beams down to investigate. The set is knowingly and goofily decorated with a disco ball reproducing the dancing lights of the transporter beams, red curtains for the bridge doors, and strikingly fake boulders (just like on the real "Star Trek"). A hodgepodge of props stand in for phasers, tricorders, and communicators, including an old rotary phone mounted to the wall of Uhura's station.
There are running gags such as Spock and McCoy silently exchanging money, apparently betting on Kirk's ability to always choose what seems like the dumbest option to solve a crisis. Scotty's accent and delivery are so garbled that his crew rarely understands what he's saying, and even the all-knowing aliens vent their impatience with Kirk's obtuseness.
As one might expect on opening night, there were some flubbed lines, stutter-steps on timing, and actors running into each others lines -- all things that tend to smooth out over a run. As the comic timing sharpens, the jokes will, no doubt, have more impact. There are a few gags that go on a bit too long (I still haven't figured out the Canadian brain-snatchers bit) and the groaningly obvious "Uranus" jokes aren't exactly breaking new comic ground. Still, it's a shaggily charming show, poking fun at Star Trek's quirks but also offering a genuinely affectionate tribute to a slice of pop culture that still inspires with its message of respecting diversity and striving for a peaceful future.
The show runs through August 16. Visit Alley's website for tickets and more information.
Photo Credit: Em Brown (L-R: Scott Davis as McCoy, Kenn Parks as Kirk, Joey Arena as Spock)
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