A group of Star Trek fans gather at a convention billed as the last public appearance of William Shatner. When Shatner’s dead body is found (offstage, at his hotel), the story turns into an interactive murder mystery. That’s the story of Who Killed Captain Kirk?, a mildly diverting comedy from Paco José Madden.
As the motley group gathers, we learn a little about the background of each Star Trek fan. The whole crew is here in the form of costumed fans representing uber-Shatner fan Kirk (Jasmin Johnson), an eerily accurate Spock (Mundy Spears), the gay Sulu (Linden Tailor) who is on his honeymoon with his flirtatious Hispanic transvestite lover Uhura (Jon Odom), a Bones (Dylan Jackson) who is actually a medical student, and the technologically adept Scotty (Alex Perez). Riding herd on the whole gang is the convention’s volunteer coordinator Pluto (Katherine Reinert), a Hollywood party planner who took on the gig despite knowing little about Star Trek.
While there are some Star Trek references thrown in, there’s not as much geek humor as you might suspect. Much of the comedy comes from the casual racial/ethnic/sexist slurs that casually come from Bones and Pluto and the heated responses of the characters. These sequences eventually lead to a long preachy interlude where the characters all get to reveal why the world of Star Trek has so much meaning to them.
After Shatner’s body is found, the story finally accelerates the humor (if not necessarily to warp speed) with a funny sequence when the crew engages in an imaginary mission aboard the Starship Enterprise. The slo-mo flight and battle sequences are a high point of the show.
The murder mystery itself is rather perfunctory. While it is fun when the characters come out to the audience to plead their innocence, the evidence and clue-solving are not very sophisticated, and we are never presented with any competing motives for the three ultimate finalists. Instead, the choice of murderer is just a popularity contest, although the “winner” does then reveal the backstory that lead to the crime.
The show does have several interesting touches. The mock Captain’s chair is a good set piece, some classic sound effects are used in the production, and a few members of the cast shine. Mundy Spears’ convincing Spock admirer is the only actor who manages to give her character some depth. The gloriously over-the-top performance of Jon Odom as Uhura, and the commanding presence of Katherine Reinert as Pluto also help keep the audience’s interest.
Who Killed Captain Kirk? doesn’t tap into the real richness of the Star Trek world, lacking the depth of a knowing satire or an insider’s geekfest. It does have enough comic moments, though, to please most Star Trek fans.
Who Killed Captain Kirk? has 4 more performances at the Mountain – Mt. Vernon Church, 900 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington, DC.
Steven rates this 3 out of 5
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