Last night was a theatre experience unlike any other that I have been in attendance for or on the stage of. Sci-Fest welcomed The IntelleXual and Sci-Fi Sundae to be part of a full house opening night of the 1st Annual Los Angeles Science Fiction One-Act Play Festival.
It was my first time being at the ACME Theatre in Hollywood. The theatre was a very small and intimate setting, bringing the audience and the performers that much closer together. As the lights go down, the show begins and 5 big television screens scattered across the house flick on with static. A very beautiful woman with a very attractive robotic sci-fi feel begins talking to all of us. Already, this was so far from what I have seen for the theatre. At any moment I thought our chairs would start rumbling and moving all around excelling us through some kind of black hole.
The tone was set and the first act “Forwarding Address” introduces us to a familiar face, Angeline Rose Troy. We interviewed her during our Sci-Fi Sundae podcast just weeks before, she was a riot and it was so wonderful seeing her big smile opening up the stage for her scene. Her character choices worked well, she made me laugh and believed the worry and panic that set in through the scene. She was accompanied by four other actors and actresses. All of them were familiar to me and I enjoyed each of them and their performances. The play took a twist that was a bit unexpected. It worked well and the comedy relief was delivered at just the right moments. Being an actress, I try and put myself in these character’s shoes while I’m engulfed in their story. Would I make those choices, what would I bring to the table, etc. I was able to relate to the efforts of ‘The Messenger’ played by Madison McLaughlin. It made you think about time travel and question the possibilities of it all.
The scene ends and while the stage was being dressed in the dark and set up for the next one act play the television screens flicker back on and we are entertained by some very eerie videos with very nail biting sounds to go along with it. I was definitely fascinated by the production and loved how interactive everything had been so far. Then there was another familiar face, James Kyson (Heroes) who was the only one powering “Freedom of Speech”. At first I didn’t recognize him due to all of the bandages covering so much of his face. The whole scene was powered by grunting and emoting through his body language; ‘the patient’ may or may not have had a voice. There was a very animalistic feel to this act, as if he was a tiger pacing back and forth in his cage hoping to bust out and finally be free. He held on to the hope that there was a chance of freedom and possibly be reunited with his mate. Hope is what keeps us going, and this is what kept ‘the patient’ going and curious to see how he would get through this very trying time. As an actor, playing a part such as this one, would be a challenge, some would fail during the attempt but James did not. It was wonderful to see him do something so different from his other lines of work.
The screens’ static goes up, everything is set up and the lights go up with David Dean Bottrell (Boston Legal) in a very ragged, post apocalyptic look crossing the stage. This was ‘ The Ringer’ which immediately conveyed a very somber and depressing feel the moment he took his first steps. Soon after he was accompanied by the youngest actor in the cast, Jakob Wedel, it’s unclear at first just how they were related, but the performances and the script filled in the larger back story with ease. These two actors, separated by decades, fed off each other so well I even found myself with a tear in my eye at one point. This definitely caught me a bit off guard. They were scared and fighting to live. Would they be saved or would their lives end in pain? The audience was left with a mixture of despair and hope. The complexity of these one-act plays is astounding.
We were let out for a quick intermission and when we returned for Act 4 we were treated to a piece to remember. We were in space with “Kaleidoscope” written by legendary sci-fi author Ray Bradbury. When I say we were in space, I mean – we were in space. The effects, the lighting, the sounds, the struggles of each actor fighting for survival was inspiring. The cast was strong with amazing chemistry. If it wasn’t for their strong performances and believable chemistry as a crew lost in space the special effects of the play would have fallen flat on its face. I’m pleased to say this didn’t happen. So much of the theatre’s space was effectively utilized to show the distance between these struggling astronauts that it really kept the audience in the middle of it all. I have never seen anything like this before on stage, it was beyond entertaining and was an incredible physically demanding performancel. As an actor, if I was on a theatrical hiatus this Sci-Fi Fest would bring me back from hybernation, and I would want nothing more than to be part of this success.
This may only be the first year of this festival, but it will be the first of many – without a doubt – and could very well be much bigger than they anticipate as the years move on. It is live theatre with such a unique vision that nothing, to my knowledge, has been done like this before involving live performance Sci-Fi.