Fireball XL

Fireball XL is what Star Trek would have been like if the bridge of the U.S.S. Enterprise had been populated entirely by women, and also if Gene Roddenberry had been cheerfully insane.

Back in old Earth Year 2014, topics such as global warming and whatnot had caused males to lose their rational capacities and go back to sticks and grunts, and thereafter to disappear. Women carried on into the future, reproducing by becoming BFFs and thereafter bearing – I am not making this up – focus groups.

Click for tickets to Fireball XL

Click for tickets to Fireball XL

Now there is a terrible plague afflicting Earth – there have been no focus groups for twenty-six months – and the mission of the good ship Fireball XL is to go to the planet Hamlet to find the solution. Plus, there are rumors and gossip (this being the most advanced form of communication in the universe of the play) of a tribe of lost boys – which is to say a gaggle of human males, carrying DNA thought lost to history.

Captain Prissy Thorn (Clare Lefebure), Science Officer Scorp (Meg Lebow, wearing fabulous green makeup designed by Carl Randolph, Robert Yoho and Morphiage, LLC), Dr. Spunt (Liz Porter; Abby Weissman plays her in other productions), the android SKYP-EE (Sophie Cameron), the empath Counselor Bar (Kiva Brick) and the rest will be the instruments by which the human species redeems itself, just as soon as they can recover their self-esteem.

You doubtlessly recognize the characters from Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation, and there are other characters of the more or less stock variety: Ensign Susie (Molly Graham Hickman), the All-American screwup; the oh-so-helpful-and-nice communications attendant Lola (Sam Felsenthal); and Arts Enhancement Director (needs no further description) Tiffany (Mia Massimino).

Together, they take on the depredations of such evil aliens as York and Gloust from Planet R-III (Isaiah Silvers and Jeremiah Savage, respectively), the bard-quoting Marcellus and Bernardo from the Planet Hamlet (Silvers and Savage again) and the evil Empress Qway-Shé (Maya Davis, on film) while attempting to recapture the savage pirate Bonni the Beast (Callie Gompf-Philips, who also plays three unfortunate Ensigns who are obliged to report on the havoc Bonni is wrecking on the ship.)

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Fireball XL
by David Minton
55 minutes
at Warehouse
645 New York Ave NW
Washington, DC, 20001
Details and tickets

As I consider Lumina Studio Theatre to be a high-end young-adult theater company on a par with any other high-end amateur company, I am going to be completely candid: this is not, in my view, their best work. It is not nearly as good as the delightfully bizarre Girls Who Think They’re Hot, which killed ‘em at last year’s Fringe. And I lay the responsibility at the feet of playwright David Minton, the Lumina Artistic Director who has done so much to make this company the unique organization that it is.

Minton has crafted, at bottom, an hour-long parody – an enormous skit. A hallmark of this sort of comedy is that its characters each sound one note…as these characters do, relentlessly. Over a fifteen-minute period, it is delightful; over a longer period, though, it wears thin. Moreover, most of these actors are capable of much more complex and interesting work. Lebow in particular is a first-rate actor who does as well as she possibly can within the limitations of the script. On the other hand, Lefebure, compelled to mimic the unusual cadences of William Shatner as Captain Kirk, sometimes swallows her lines. (To be fair, so did Shatner.)

This is not to say that the script doesn’t have laughs. It does. It’s just that Lumina is capable of so much more.

There are a couple of standouts who deserve special mention. Cameron is astonishing as the Android SKYP-EE. She choreographs her movements with such precision that, in a different context, she might have persuaded me that she really was a machine, and she mimics perfectly the awkwardness we attribute to mechanical motion. (And she presents another occasion for makeup kudos). Porter, in a brief song, exhibits a first-rate voice.

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