Peter Van Slyke must be a little gassy these days.
There’s no other explanation.
Van Slyke wrote and directed The Gaslight Theatre’s current offering, “Space Trek.”
As the captain and the crew of the spaceship Excelsior wander the universe, they encounter mylantans from the planet Mylanta; the villains were from the planet Zantac, there’s reference to the third moon of Rolaids. Pepto Bismol was a city though we are not sure which planet it was on. Then there’s the city of Kopectac.
Please, someone give Van Slyke some Beano.
It’s been nearly two decades since The Gaslight has done a “Star Trek” spinoff, and we are told this one is completely different than the earlier version.
Though, we suspect, it was likely just as funny. In all of the many Van Slyke plays we’ve seen, it’s clear he loves to jigger the lyrics to ‘60s and ‘70s rock ‘n’ roll tunes to be sort of relevant to the story, is crazy about puns, and sacrifices continuity for bad humor. No wonder this theater is so popular: it doesn’t demand we think. It demands we laugh.
“Space Trek” finds Captain James W. Quick (Mike Yarema, doing a spot-on imitation of James T. Kirk) on his way to pick up Princess Serena Andromeda, the ruler of Mylanta, who is ready to sign a peace treaty with the Zantacians. Janée Page, who has an exquisite voice, gave just the right mixture of innocence and sass to the princess.
Oh, but those Zantacians are a nasty bunch. They will pretend they are going for peace, but they have war on their minds. Their leader, the Klingonish Voltaire, is one mean dude. Why the villain carries the name of the French writer who railed against tyranny and cruelty is anyone’s guess. No matter. Todd Thompson’s Voltaire was big, bad and delicious.
Van Slyke clearly knows his “Star Trek,” and each of his characters exploits traits found in the original TV series. Doc McCrea constantly spews variations of “I’m a doctor, not a delivery boy;” Jacob Brown manages to keep a straight face through it all. Joe Cooper takes on the role of the Scottish Monty, the ship’s chief engineer. Cooper grabs any and all opportunities to make his fellow cast members crack up, and he generally succeeds, which may be why he is a Gaslight favorite — he got applause when he first came on stage. Now, Cooper can’t do a Scottish accent, but when he spittle sprays cast members as he attempts to roll over-exaggerated rrrs, we kind of can’t help but forgive him for not being able to do the difficult Scottish brogue.
Jake Chapman embraces his role of the logical, devoid-of-feeling science officer, Sprock, who lives by the motto, “be strong and flourish.” Erin Thompson and Dave Orley make fine bad-guy companions for Voltaire.
Generally, Gaslight plays give us a damsel in distress and a buffed-up hero comes to her rescue. That formula was dispensed here — the Space Fleet team is collectively in danger, and they pull themselves out of it. If there is a hero, we’d say it is Heather Stricker as Lt. O’Hara, whose skills at manipulating communications systems helps in the rescue of the ship.
The after-show olio is a take-off of the 1970s “The Gong Show,” a truly awful program that inexplicably became a TV hit. Gaslight has done a version of this before, and we thank them for that, and for putting Joe Cooper once again in the role of the tasteless Chuck Barris, host of the show.
Here’s the thing about The Gaslight: there may be bad jokes, sketchy scripts and corny characters, but you also get this: some beautiful singing, wildly clever sets by Tom Benson, a solid trio led by pianist Linda Ackerman and a cast that exudes energy and joy.
While Van Slyke might be gassy, this show, like most at Gaslight, is a gas.