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A CurtainUp Review
Earth Sucks
By David Avery

When something good happens to me, I should be able to rely on my girlfriend to automatically have sex with me! —Echo's boyfriend Swayze
Earth Sucks
Lucas Revolution and Emily Stern in Earth Sucks
(Photo: Emika Honda)
Poor Echo Bell (Emily Stern) is having a rough go of it in Earth Sucks, A Cosmic Rock Musical. She hates just about everybody around her, can't relate to the music the rest of the kids are listening to, and has a workaholic dad Max (Christopher Fairbanks) who works at NASA and constantly imposes his rules on her. To compensate for her general ennui, Echo starts listening to ambient-generated space noise.

Unbeknownst to Echo, her father is also listening to noise from space, albeit of the non-random variety. He is attempting to negotiate the appearance of a galaxy-wide rock star name Ulinia Swords (Nakia Syvonne). Earth apparently hit the galactic radar when it began broadcasting music via radio, and classic rock has taken the galaxy by storm. This music has also inspired another group of space musicians called Citizens of Earth, led by the singer FluhBluhBluh (Lucas Revolution). Yes, that really is the character's name. They have traveled to Earth to play music and escape the evil designs of Ulinia Swords, who turns out to be more of an evil dictator than a rock goddess. Go figure.

The band members pick up Echo and are horrified to learn that Ms. Swords is on her way to Earth. They decide to try and prevent her arrival by destroying the machine Echo's father is using to contact the evil queen, which is called a Pan Language Omni Translator. P.L.O.T. for short. Get it? I guess M.A.C.G.U.F.F.I.N. was too difficult to make an acronym out of, even if it would have been funnier.

The performances are all pretty solid, and the songs are brief and spaced (heh) apart enough to stay out of the way of the byzantine and absurd plot. All the actors have competent enough singing voices to pull off the fairly simple vocal parts. The songs, most with tinges of recognizable pop melodies, are kind of witty at times, with lots of astronomical references (i.e., "I Need My Space," "Dark Matters").

The music is provided by on onstage band consisting of four local professional musicians (Rawn Erickson II, John Hanson, Duncan Mackay, Paul Wyderka) who also portray the alien band members. In fact, they account for the show's strengths. Some of the blocking is hindered by the small stage, but I liked the way a stage hand just brazenly comes from backstage to move, adjust, and abscond with microphones and props, much like you would see at a real concert.

While the play is hyper-aware of modern technologies with lots of cultural references to texting, cell minutes, social networking sites to lend credence to the suburban teenage angst, it isn't all that funny. Jokes get overused, punch lines fall flat. The play overall seems too desperately anxious to be a Rocky Horror Picture Show type of production (minus the sex). Instead it comes off as a bad SNL sketch that lasts two hours.

Granted, the second act flows better once the major plot points have been introduced in the ponderous first act.. But if you're going to put together an absurdist play that mocks Earth's civilization, it's important to have more direction, if not a point, to sustain it.

It should be said that some of the costumes are as funny (Fluhbluhbluh wears a red spandex suit and speaks through a sock puppet) and some of the sci-fi in-jokes worked very well (the Citizens of Earth's home world is called HangFangDangWangTang — I think). Nakia Syvonne's depiction of the evil Ulinia Swords reminded me of the campy incarnation of Ming the Merciless (in a good way). Too bad that the starlight is eclipsed by a moon of banality.

Music, Lyrics, Book: Jonas Oppenheim

Directed by Jonas Oppenheim
Choreographed by Reed Farley and Gustine Fudickar
Cast: Rawn Erickson II (Swayze & Kloopydoopy), Christopher Fairbanks (Max Bell), Jennifer Fenten (Jen), John Hanson (John), Duncan Mackay (Phloink), Jonas Oppenheim (Lorenzo & General Jim), Alicyn Packard (Jenn), Scott Palmason (Possé), Lucas Revolution (Fluhbluhbluh), Emily Stern (Echo Bell), Nakia Syvonne (Ulinia Swords), Paul Wyderka (Kloopydoopy 2)
Set: Mel Horan Costume Design: Arianna Pistilli
Lighting Design: Brian MacDevitt
Sound Design: Tim Boyce
Vocal Design: Normandie Wilson
Running time: 2 hours (including a 15 minute intermission)
Art/Works Theater, 6569 Santa Monica Blvd., LA, 90038
Fridays and Saturdays @ 8pm, Sundays @ 7pm
Ticket prices: $25 ($15 for students)
From 10/4/08 to 11/2/08

Reviewed by David Avery on 10/04/08
Musical Numbers
Act One
  • Song/People
  • Earth Sucks / Echo 
  • Pain / Swayze 
  • I Need My Space / Echo 
  • Max's Lament / Max  
  • Please Send Help / Echo, Max 
  • We Come in Peace / Fluhbluhbluh, Citizens of Earth 
  • Dark Matters / Fluhbluhbluh, Citizens of Earth 
  • You're My Creation / Posse, Ulinia 
  • Obey / Ulinia
Act Two
  • …Means I Love You / Echo, Fluhbluhbluh 
  • Insecurities / Posse, Jenn, Jen 
  • Report on Pluto / Jenn, Jen 
  • Kill / Ulinia 
  • The Age of Song / Fluhbluhbluh/Citizens of Earth 
  • Please Send Help (Reprise) / Cast
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