The current show of Counter-Productions Theatre at AS220 is their delightful, every-other-year homage to classic stories of science fiction. This year, the show named Atomic Bride of X-1 is a collection of four one-act stories originally written as radio plays in the 1950s. Says Ted Clement, artistic director of the Counter-Productions Theater, “From the far horizons of the unknown come transcribed tales of new dimensions in time and space. These are stories of the future, adventures in which you’ll live in a million could-be years on a thousand may-be worlds.”
Do not scoff that these may be old-fashioned or dated stories. In fact, it is fascinating that in our contemporary storytelling (e.g., Interstellar), collectively we still pursue the same questions. Is there life on other worlds? Will the earth crumble and force us to move to distant outposts? What happens if Earth is invaded? These stories are cleverly transcribed for the stage. This time Clement serves as music coordinator and Host, with Christine Fox as producer. Clement’s additional notes to each story in between the plays is reminiscent of “The Twilight Zone.”
Along with Clement’s commentary, music from old sci-fi shows plays while clips of ancient space travel films display on the back wall when actors are not on stage. This time, there are four different directors, chosen by Clement, to direct each of the four stories. Rufus Qristofer Teixeira directs Junkyard, written by Clifford D. Simak. A great audience pleaser, this one-act opens the show with a “Star Trek” feel. The actors wear uniforms much akin to the “Star Trek” crew. They use phasers, communicators and even the whirling-sound gizmo used by the Doctor. It’s played with just enough camp to elicit laughs.
On a much creepier note is Perigi’s Wonderful Dolls, written by George Lefferts and directed by Erin Archer. Stuart Wilson gives an outstanding performance as the mysterious Perigi. No spoilers, but for goodness sake, if you ever inherit, find or are given a doll that shortly becomes weird or creepy, get rid of that thing! Costumes and vintage hairdos are wonderfully realized for this story.
Skulking Permit, written by Robert Sheckley, is directed with humor by Billy Flynn. This is a story with a unique twist on the “What if” premise of colonizing other planets or moons. It also demonstrates how communications can be warped over time and evolve into a completely different message. I particularly enjoyed Jeana Ariel Garcia as Tammy Fisher and Erin Archer as Edna Beer. No one is sure how things will work out. But the writing is very clever.
Laura Minadeo directs the chilling Zero Hour, written by Ray Bradbury. The story starts out innocently, with a normal family. Haley Pine plays the daughter, Mink. Pine has no problem holding her own with the adults on stage. She is playing a new game with her friend, Art (Alex Rotella). Parents often don’t understand the games their children create, but Mink’s mom becomes worried when she finds the game to be more and more puzzling after speaking to her sister in another city.
Overall, there is very fine acting and direction in this collection. I was a bit distracted by the slow set changes done in between scenes, which slowed down the pace at the top of the show. It was opening night — perhaps the stage hands will become more efficient as the run progresses.
The Atomic Bride of X Minus One continues at 95 Empire St., Providence, Nov 14 and 15 at 7pm, and Nov 16 at 2pm. For tickets go to brownpapertickets.com