Lost in space

Alien Sympathizer Henry Platt is Missing!

By Rob Mess, Michael Birch, Richard Homan and Bricken Sparacino
Directed by Bricken Sparacino
10:17 Comedy Troupe
78th Street Theatre Lab
236 West 78th Street at Broadway (932-3767)
Equity showcase (closes June 17)
Review by Doug DeVita

Ostensibly a satire on the science fiction serials that ran rampant on TV in the '50s and '60s, Alien Sympathizer Henry Platt is Missing! takes place in the present, on Earth, in outer space, and on several different space ships as various aliens try to find one Henry Platt, a kidnapped Earthling who in turn is trying to save one Linda May Drucadia (the droll Gretchen Greaser), another kidnapped Earthling who has become an out-of-this-world piemaker. (Don't ask.) Without an original thought in its bubbly head, Alien Sympathizer Henry Platt is Missing! still manages to be an affectionately funny lampoon of every kitschy American Pop icon of the last 50 years, from fudgesicles to plastic wigs and E-mail. The entire production, in fact, looked like the designers were granted a 15-minute "grab-all-you-can" shopping spree in a novelty store; they managed to work every kind of gag gift imaginable into the proceedings to hilarious effect. When things lagged, as they sometimes did, there were always the nifty props and costumes to keep the audience giggling. Written by Rob Mess, Michael Birch, Richard Homan, and Bricken Sparacino, directed with a colorful, though sporadic, flair by Sparacino, and featuring Mess, Birch and Sparacino in the large ensemble, it may be a case of too many inbred cooks tossing too many time-worn ingredients into the broth - especially toward the end, when, backed into a corner by their outrageous shenanigans, they had no choice but to finish with a spurious "cliffhanger" finale that seemed something of a cop-out. But if it didn't shine with the brilliance of incisive originality, it did glow with the slightly fuzzy warmth of a television screen displaying every cheesy sci-fi serial ever produced, all at once. And when all was said and done, it was much better than it had any right to be.

The cast was uniformly excellent, throwing themselves into the insanity with a freewheeling sense of mayhem that was contagious. Natalie Wilder was especially delightful in her gleeful send-up of cats, both the species and the musical, as was Danielle Stilli, who could be the demon spawn of Joan Allen and Jane Curtin: skillfully mixing the stiff sanctimony of the former with the arch comic zing of the latter, she was a hoot. Also outstanding were Michael Birch as the befuddled Henry, Elizabeth Furtado in every role she played, and Nathan Carver, whose dexterity with an extra body part was a priceless, laugh-out-loud highlight. (No, not THAT part! You'll just have to see for yourselves.)

If Alien Sympathizer Henry Platt is Missing was not always at the level of energetic lunacy that it aspired to, and if it all fell apart somewhat in its last few minutes, it nevertheless bubbled along on enough gusts of inventive silliness to make it a very entertaining evening. And sometimes, that's all that's necessary. Lick well. (Also featuring David DelGrosso, Randy Soare, and Rosario Vaina. Scenic Design: Moira Birch Swiatkowski. Props and Costumes: Bricken Sparacino, Elizabeth Furtado, and Kirsten Finkas. Lights and Sound: Ian Tooley.)

Box Score:

Writing: 1

Directing: 1

Acting: 2

Set: 1

Costumes: 2

Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2001 Doug DeVita