The worst thing about Dr. Science’s Science Time Science-va-ganza! is that it’s only an hour long.
Actors Adam Ruben, Chuck Na, and Jason Pittman have crafted an original combination of nostalgic fun with some pretty hilarious social commentary. The trio spoof all those badly demonstrated experiments from junior high science class and they lampoon beliefs like astrology, creationism, and the Ouija board.
Children will like the experiments, but it’s the adults who will love the cultural references, for example, at one point Dr. Science (Ruben) says: “Science is alive! Except geology!” and “The two most important ingredients in all of science is baking soda and vinegar!”
The little touches are also great. For example, the closing shot of a video about the awesomeness of science is the shadow of a dinosaur walking across the screen.
Ruben is spot-on as the exuberant out-of-touch teacher and Na is funny as his archenemy, the pretentious Dr. Anti-Science. But the highlight of the show is when both interact with boy sidekick, Billy, a puppet played by Pittman.
“What do you do when you have a question Billy?” asks Dr. Anti-Science after they enter a parallel universe where the sun revolves around the earth and the president is Rick Santorum.
“Ask a priest!” says Billy’s alternative-universe character Schmilly.
“No Billy, you don’t want to go to a priest,” responds a frustrated, Dr. Science.
The show is even funnier when the actors are forced to ad-lib when experiments, or the accompanying multimedia, don’t work as planned. They even found a way to work in a loud clap of thunder from a passing storm into the dialogue.
Na’s Dr. Anti-Science effectively mocks everything from global warming deniers to alternative medicine. Thus a bought of scurvy is due to a lapse of faith, a prism becomes a healing crystal, and a model volcano becomes an aromatherapy burner.
Dr. Anti-Science’s ditty is also great: “Every time you can’t find funding to the NIH, I’m there. Every time you take Echinacea, I’m there,” he sings. “I slip in and put disclaimers in your textbooks. Vote Romney!”
The attempt at some sort of final analysis is perhaps the show’s weakest link. Dr. Science has a revelation at the end and discovers that science isn’t about performing crappy demonstrations that don’t work, but about asking questions where the answer is unknown and trying to find those answers. That’s a bit of a frail takeaway considering the show is so good.
Their criticisms of right-wing politicians and religious beliefs also seem a bit too predictable for the Fringe crowd. I wish they had picked some higher-hanging fruit, because they’ve certainly proven that effective comedic satire is possible.
Thumbs Up! has 6 performances, ending July 29, 2012, at B103 at Mt Vernon United Methodist Church, 900 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington, DC
Lisa rates this 5 out of a possible 5, making it a Pick of the Fringe!