THEATER REVIEW: SAN FRANCISCO
Show #81: Star Trek: Live! The Way to Eden, the Dark Room, September 3.
By Sam Hurwitt
The Dark Room in the Mission hosts a variety of comedy events, solo shows and Bad Movie Nights, but it really seems to have a yen for pop culture homages. The last time I was there a few years back was to see a stage version of The Blob, the place often hosts live Twilight Zone episodes, and upcoming events include Beetlejuice: Live, Breakfast Fight Club, and Dr. Strangelove.
Rarely is there a show with such an avid preexisting audience as Star Trek: Live! The Way to Eden, because lord knows people who love Star Trek really, really love Star Trek. The live version uses an existing episode of the original ’60s series, keeping true to the basic plot but taking considerable comic liberties with the details.
“The Way to Eden” is a perfect episode to use for this campy treatment, because it’s pretty camp-friendly to begin with. (Not that there aren’t plenty of other installments to choose from in that respect, such as any time that Abraham Lincoln shows up.) The original 1969 story by Arthur Heinemann involves the Enterprise being taken over by an annoying group of singing, zoned-out space hippies who want the ship to take them to a mythical paradise planet called Eden. They have their own hippie lingo, saying “we reach” when someone’s on their wavelength (most notably, Spock) and calling all squares “Herbert.”
There’s no set to speak of on the tiny black-box stage, just a few metal folding chairs and a boxy homemade captain’s chair. The preshow music is an amusing mix of Trek-related novelty tunes, selections from William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy’s respective pop album and other space-related songs.
The cast doesn’t look or sound much like their prototypes, but they capture the essence of what people think of when they think of the original Enterprise crew and then exaggerate it tenfold. Jay Huston is a delightfully larger than life Kirk, obnoxious in all the right ways, with a preening swagger and staccato delivery. Justin Gomes dials Dr. McCoy’s irascibility up to near-psychotic rage at any setback, and Mikl-Em (a nice Kryptonian name) plays Scotty with a bizarre grimace and broad-as-a-barn accent.
Misha Trubs’s hangdog Chekov has almost as much Ed Sullivan as Walter Koenig, with hunched shoulders, a permanent scowl and near-inscrutable mumble. Tim Kay is an appropriately deadpan Mr. Spock, and Jepoy Ramos is a subdued Sulu, always adjusting invisible consoles. Becky Hirschfeld comes on strong as libidinous Yeoman Janice Rand, who wasn’t in the actual episode. (The dialogue addresses this by asking where Uhura is, although she actually wasn’t in the episode either.) Adam Curry has a funny cameo as a succession of redshirt security guards in silly wigs (series-accurate Starfleet uniforms by Ralph Hoy).
It would be hard for the space hippies to be any more obnoxious that they were on the original episode, and in the stage version they seem a nice enough bunch of freaks. Andrew Moore has a happy-go-lucky surfer-dude quality as Adam, the group’s musician, and Sean Wigglesworth is especially zoned-out as Jesus-haired ambassador’s son Tongo Rad. Katelyn Danger Sharp works the cute-girl angle and a cursory Russian accent as Irina, Chekov’s old flame from Starfleet Academy, now dropped out, tuned in and turned on. With an oversize bald cap, Ash Clayton maintains an air of grim blankness as the hippies’ mysterious leader Dr. Severin.
The songs the hippies sing (“Eat all the fruit and throw away the rind—yeah, brother”) are changed from meandering space folk to rock numbers with electric guitar played offstage by director (and Dark Room co-owner) Jim Fourniadis.
It’s definitely lightweight entertainment, but there are enough added gags sprinkled throughout to keep the basic shtick from getting old: a tender moment between Kirk and Spock, Sulu checking out the hippie guys, Spock pleading not to let Kirk sing. Some of the Herberts out there may not reach, but you don’t want to be Herbert, do you? I think we reach. Yeah, brother.
Star Trek: Live! The Way to Eden runs through September 24 at the Dark Room, 2263 Mission St., San Francisco. http://darkroomsf.com