Theatre Review: Second Time Round Just as Good: Sci-Fest 2015

BANNER_Opinions2013Sci-Fest LA 2015
seen at The Acme Theatre in Los Angeles

An alien as a roadside attraction, a job interview for a psychopath, and noir nursery rhymes are just part of the offerings at the second annual Sci-Fest, LA’s one act play festival for tales from the world of science fiction.

When I attended last year’s festival, I wrote how the festival was created to help bring more science fiction to the theatre stage. Last year’s was obviously a success, as the group behind it not only has launched this second year, but as actress Patricia Tallman at the curtain speech announced, there would be a London version in October this year.

As with last year’s, the festival is divided into two programs, with the ten one acts divided between the two, spread out over the run of the festival. And also as with last year, among the original pieces there are a few adaptations from well-known authors in the genre. Last night was opening night, and Program A. The first act was three original pieces, while the second was two adaptations.

First up was “Turnover”, by Chris Graybill: a drama that’s an interrogation with an inmate that turns into a bit more. “It’s a job interview – it’s like a lying contest,” says the interrogator Stephen (David Dean Bottrell) as he explains to the inmate (Keisha Thompson) why he brought her to him. The piece has promise, although there were swear words that seemed thrown in just to make it edgy and it had a bit of a Twilight Zone-esque twist.

Joel Silberman’s “Human History” was next. “Translated from Xentraxia”, the opening title card informs the audience, and then we’re eavesdropping into a classroom discussion held by Professor Grock (Tucker Smallwood) about the history of the wars between the Xentraxians and the humans after they conquered Earth in the ‘far off time’ of 2016. With lines like, “I have no problem with humans: many of my friends are human,” what the story is really about is pretty obvious. The moral is pretty on the nose, but thankfully easy to digest thanks to the humor peppered throughout the piece.

The final piece of the first act was also a comedy, “The Lunchtime Show” by G. Clarence Davidson. We see Dale Dickey (Leticia Swinehart) doing her best redneck accent as she talks to a group of tourists stopping by a roadside attraction. The story is of the E.T. variety of a sort, with an alien that seems to be more of a pet than an actual intelligent being, gaped at and prodded at by not only Dickey and her brother Bobby (Jack David Walker), but by a public willing to pay for it. I won’t spoil the ending, but it has a great twist that I caught onto maybe a minute before it actually happened.

The second act was two adaptations of stories from authors well-known in the genre. First up was Clive Barker’s “Departed”, adapted by Christian Francis. Tara Platt is Hermione, a mother who has died and is a ghost. Learning what she can and can’t do from Rice (Yuri Lowenthal), she can’t seem to leave her son behind. While it was a good story, it had a fairly abrupt ending that made the piece feel more like a teaser for a longer piece that would’ve explored this world of ghosts and obsession so much deeper.

Finally, the last piece was Neil Gaiman’s “The Case of Four and Twenty Blackbirds”, adapted by Michael Bernard. Mark Povinelli is Jack Horner, a private detective in a world where nursery rhymes are all too real, investigating the ‘real’ reason Humpty Dumpty had died. Was it really a fall, or was he pushed? This was by far the best piece of the lot, with the humorous take on noir including every trope imaginable – even down to the truly atrocious Irish accent on the beat cop. The joke plays a little too long, but the laughs are plenty and the actors were obviously having the time of their lives playing up the noir.

Program A runs four more times – May 17, 21, 22, & 23 – while Program B starts up on May 14 and goes until the 31st. More information on the festival, including ticket prices and submission information for future installments, can be found at www.sci-fest.com.

You can see more of Angie’s writing at her website.

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Angie Fiedler Sutton

Angie Fiedler Sutton is a writer, photographer, and all-round fangirl geek. She currently lives in Los Angeles, and primarily covers geek culture, entertainment, and the performing arts. She's been published in Den of Geek, Stage Directions, LA Weekly, The Mary Sue, and others. You can see more of her work (and her social media connections) over at her website angiefsutton.com.

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