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Earth Sucks @ Art/Works Theatre ~ Hollywood

11:59 AM PDT on October 9, 2008

Art/Works Theater ~ 6567-6583 Santa Monica Blvd. Hollywood, CA 90038

"Earth Sucks is an intergalactic garage band showdown between Earthlings and the people who need their ‘Space’" – Asian Taco Chick

Earth Sucks is writer/director/producer Jonas Oppenheim’s tribute to two of his favorite things: astronomy and rock ‘n roll, with a couple of star struck lovers stuck in between. Set in Houston, Texas, Earth Sucks begins with young Echo Bell (Emily Stern from the Kabbalah Jewish Theatre, NYC and the nutsack of TACO's favorite shock jock), an enlightened teenager filled with angst and boredom towards her planet Earth, tuning into the musical sounds of space. Is it the mini-malls, the coffee shops, or the short sightedness of Earth boys who can’t see past their next sexual mishap that make Echo want to go where she merely thinks no one has gone before?

After breaking up with her Earthling boyfriend Swayze (Rawn Erickson II) in the number “I Need My Space,” Echo searches for an out-of-this-world attraction. Little does she know her taste for space is hereditary; Echo’s father, Max Bell (Christopher Fairbanks), who works for NASA, has a hidden past of close encounters. The plot twists when Echo boards a bus/spaceship and encounters an intergalactic rock band, Citizens of Earth from the planet Hang Fang Dang Mang Tang, led by Chapulin-esque lead singer and sock puppet alien Fluhbluhblubh (Lucas Revolution).

Stern is quite endearing as the awkward teenager, but this same awkwardness sometimes prevents her from giving a more (guffaw) down-to-earth performance. The strength of the show shines through its villains, Ulinia Swords (Nakia Syvonne) and Mr. Swordo (Scott Palmason). Syvonne can make a two-step on a small stage feel like a grand-slam show at the Hollywood Bowl. Her performance, alongside Palmason’s, is worth trekking across the galaxy for. When the protagonists are in the spotlight, the show takes a more passive nature.

Earth Sucks' use of costumes and props to portray alien life forms is both edgy and animated; sock puppet martian, keyboard bong, and the writer himself making a cameo in drag. After sitting down in the theater that night I realized said playwright is the same Jonas Oppenheim I knew in NYC, who once pondered using a medical model of a vagina as a container for chip dip. I'm pretty sure he's some sort of genius for that idea.

Musical numbers that rock the show into focus are "Obey," by Ulinia Swords, her haunting melody of universal conquest; "The Age of Song," sung by Citizens of Earth, in their battle against Ulinia to save, yes, the citizens of our planet; and the love duet between Echo and Fluhbluhbluh, “…Means I Love You.” Here the two lovers learn each others' languages, English and Alien. Keep in mind, he's a sock puppet. So it's funny.

The psychedelic set (Mel Horan and Warren Johnson) easily transforms from Dad’s NASA office to Echo’s bedroom to the spaceship bus to an everyday sidewalk on Earth. And the costumes (Arianna Pistilli) inhabit both the inner hearts of the human characters and the outer brains on top of the alien ones.

Playing through November 2nd at the ArtWorks Theatre in Hollywood, “Earth Sucks” is an evolving cosmic goulash of rock ‘n roll and nonsensical fun that's a tad premature for its Broadway-like marketing. There are Earth Sucks T-shirts and CDs being sold in the lobby. OH, why not?! Sometimes, as the Beatles would say, “All you need is love.” Unfortunately the vaginal chip dip dish is yet to make its debut.

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