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Intergalactic Nemesis Redux

Local Arts Reviews

Reviewed by Robi Polgar, Fri., June 21, 2002

Intergalactic Nemesis Redux: Bang, Scratch, Slam, Scrunch, and Plunge

Gallery Lombardi,

through June 29

Running Time: 2 hrs, 30 min

Behind the row of microphones and script-laden music stands that line the front of the playing area are a platform and a tabletop of things that make noise. It's the foley artists' den, and, above the seven actors who read their scripts as if performing on a live radio broadcast, circa 1940, foley artists Etta Sanders and Hillary Thomas bang, scratch, slam, switch, scrunch, and plunge their way through the retro-futuristic world of ace reporter Molly Sloan, sidekick Timmy Mendez, and lots of weird humans and weirder outer-space creatures. Sanders and Thomas play with hinged wooden slats for that bar-brawl smacking sound; two cinder blocks that slide open hidden passages in ancient Scottish stone walls; a couple of shoes and a tub of gravel for those long walks in Tunisia; and the white five-gallon bucket of mystery liquid, with the unmistakable stumpy handle of a common household plunger sticking out the top, to make that alien noise. Shudder.

Salvage Vanguard Theater has remounted its pair of homages to the golden days of radio with a double bill of light-hearted, clever spins on those old serialized mysteries. (The sequel, Return of the Intergalactic Nemesis, plays June 20-22, and both play in rep June 27-29.) Ray Colgan, Jessica Reisman, and Jason Neulander wrote the material with a keen ear for the rhythms of the old shows, and foley designer Buzz Moran has assembled all manner of sounds, from simple doors opening in a Scottish railway tea shop to the weird hums and crackles of intergalactic travel. Watching the foley pair of Sanders and Thomas at work is half the fun of this production. Add live music by members of Golden Arm Trio, the clean-cut announcer of Chronicle arts writer Wayne Alan Brenner, and an active in-studio audience for an experience that sounds almost as authentic as it is humorous.

Neulander directs the ensemble, as well as playing the time-traveling Ben Wilcott, getting the most out of, naturally, his on-air villains and weirdoes. As the evil mesmerist Mysterion, Shannon McCormick is delightfully egotistic and wicked. Carlos Trevino excels as several of the Zygons, would-be earth-conquering sludge monsters from deep space. Trevino also plays a host of humans, with an enjoyable mock-seriousness throughout. As youngster Timmy Mendez, Jon Watson has the eager apprentice shtick down, as well as a Luke Skywalker-esque dose of idiot savant that might just allow him to save the galaxy --- stay tuned. Rounding out the cast are Chronicle arts writer Molly Beth Brenner as Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Molly Sloan, Deanna Shoemaker as a host of humans and aliens, and Neulander, each of whom has her or his moments, but nothing so outrageous or over the top as the other three. Among their best bits are the budding romance between Molly and Ben, perpetually interrupted by eager pup Timmy, and the robotic monotone duet by Shoemaker and Trevino, doing an Obi-Wan Kenobi on potential galaxy saver Timmy.

Sitting through both sets of shows (the first has six episodes, the second eight) might be a bit much to ask of an audience, but the whole thing is definitely worth hearing, so if you can't make both performances, purchase the CD.

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