Fabulous technical elements and spirited performances from a large ensemble of actors, singers and dancers cannot overcome the authorial negligence of the musical science fiction pastiche, ray gun say0nara. It runs over two hours plus an intermission and has some engaging sequences but makes little cumulative impact.
Describing the play’s origins, playwright Steven Mark Tenney pompously states in his program note:
For me, the issues of such a theme are bound inextricably to the underlying values of a culture — to its living mythos, which branches out in unconscious fantasia, permeating all around us. You know you are stepping into a myth when things feel larger than life.
The play was going to be a ten minute work on the subject of gun violence. This didn’t happen and instead we get an epic, haphazardly crammed with genre conventions without concern for a compelling plot. There’s exposition, incidents and songs and dances that do not cohere into a narrative that can be simply stated or satisfyingly enacted. Its “formatta” details idiosyncratic tangents rather than basic stage directions. The dialogue is a lot of sci-fi prattling. A fun number about a princess phone is a song from Mr. Tenney’s pleasantly decent score that is interwoven throughout the actions.
passages in double- or triple- column are spoken together, but with each column intelligible the overlap is an interlace, with micro-pauses and tempo adjustments, enabling texts to be concurrently clear…bold phrases are echoed immediately after in Japanese…
Gobbledygook aside, this is the story of an extraterrestrial society transplanting some of its members to the United States in the 1950’s. We’re now in the future and there’s three alien princesses dancing around, a starship with a dashing captain, a wise ambassador, a typical American family thrust into the action after being sucked into a jukebox and transported to space, there’s a nutty high school prom and ray gun battles. Nothing really registers and so we appreciate the great stagecraft on display while the time numbingly passes.
Futurism is vibrantly evoked by Janet Mervin’s fantastic costume design with its nods to Pierre Cardin, classic films and Klaus Nomi. Employing leather, fur, sequins, and lamé, Ms. Mervin relies on black, gray and white, as well as other colors for her splendorous creations.
Providing movable panels on to which imagery is projected and a configuration of jagged platforms center stage, scenic designer Raye Levine achieves a lavish-appearing and perfect environment for this swashbuckling outer space tale. Gilbert Lucky Pearto’s shadowy lighting design, Andy Evan Cohen’s zesty sound design and Roly Polys’ crisp projection design all proficiently contribute to the high level sense of a fantasyland.
Yeoman director Janet Bentley’s physical staging manages to keep the production unified and propulsive despite numerous scenes, vagaries and musical interludes. Ms. Bentley’s integration of choreographer Yukari Osaka’s alluring dances is accomplished. Ms. Osaka’s grand moves are chiefly performed by the princesses but there’s also some fine group numbers.
A novel feature of ray gun say0nara is its voluminous mostly youthful company who pounce on their archetypal roles with gusto. They are Timothy Babcock, Dan Chen, Ivette Dumeng, Alexa Elmy, Olaf Eide, Melina Finck, Jacquelyn Avery Greenspan, Erin Grant, Theresa Johnson, Kelsey Lea Jones, Lizzie Kehoe, Justy Kosek, Joel Henry Little, Joyce Miller, Sam Ogilvie, Jean Louise O’Sullivan, Laura Pruden, Sean Leigh Phillips, Mike Roche, Randall Rodriguez, Jenna Vezina and Rich Wisneski. The dancers are Yukari Osaka, Ayaka Yoshimoto, Madisen Nielsen and Giorgia Riccardi.
ray gun say0nara’s presentational virtues are marred by its weak core.
ray gun say0nara (through December 22, 2019)
Nylon Fusion Theatre Company
The New Ohio Theatre, 154 Christopher Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 866-811-4111 or visit http://www.nylonfusion.org
Running time: two hours and 20 minutes including one intermission