ZAP! BAM! OOOF! And with a few well-placed punches our hero conquers the devious space invaders, gets the girl and the Earth is safe to live in peace, pursuing the American Way. Not so in this “Flash Gordon” spoof by Howard Korder. While “Episode 26” succeeds in getting off the launching pad and will probably develop some cult appreciation, it unfortunately remains lost in space.
Korder’s farce offers a number of turns and departures from the original tale.
The title harkens back to the serial roots of the genre, telling of young, self-centered Buzz Gatecrasher (Dan O’Connor) and his vapid girlfriend Hillen Dale (Kari Coleman).
The two agree to embark on a flight with the local ecentric, Dr. Deco (David Nathan Schwartz) to investigate a rogue planet which is on a crash course with the Earth.
All the “regulars” are here: the evil emperor Vaknor (Neal Lerner), his wild woman concubine Wallaneeba (Judy Nazametz) and his inept cronies and guards (Chris Vose, David Warick and Brad Sherwood).
Korder twists and reshapes well-known, if not overworked story in a pedantic, cumbersome manner, only occasionally tossing in a bit of fresh wit.
While patiently waiting for the play to pick up momentum, one finds it difficult to believe that this tripe was penned by the author of “Boy’s Life.”
Aside from the inherently tired material (which was much more cleverly spoofed in the 1974 R-rated film “Flesh Gordon”), the production’s flaws lie soundly in director Geoff Treat’s lap. Treat misses the point of farce entirely.
The humor in farce arises from the fact that the participants deal with their situation in a deadly serious manner, not tongue-in-cheek, thereby allowing the audience to laugh at the ridiculousness of the situation. Treat allows his cast to race through Korder’s script in pseudo-seriousness with little or no focus, resulting in much sloppy slapstick.
The uneven cast gleans bits of humor and does manage to create likable personas at times. O’Connor’s fiercely awkward hero is the show’s delight. In spite of the undisciplined vortex in which he must work, O’Connor performs with the self-confidence and inner dynamics of a professional.
Nazemetz’s barbarian and Vose’s cannibalistic Zugdish provide the bulk of the evening’s humor with the spontaneity and total abandon of their obtuse characterizations. The remainder of the cast, when articulate enough to be understood, is simply unfunny.
Alan Axelrod’s improvised, synthesized music, one of the show’s greatest assets, keeps the pace from lagging most of the time, while heightening the tension.
Melanie Paizis’ functional set design changes locales with ease, and Ellen Hughes’ costumes have an appropriate cheapness.