By Sarah Tuft
Opening on April 7th at The PIT Loft… where its 3/4 stage will make it an even more immersive experience… is a show that’s not to be missed. I had the pleasure of seeing the funny, smart and wholly engrossing Moby Alpha in the Hollywood Fringe. Since that time, it’s wowed audiences from L.A. to Edmonton to Edinburgh. And I know why.
Billed as: “Moby-Dick in space, but funny,” this one-act play is mash-up of Melville’s epic novel with sci-fi cult classics including Star Trek, Star Trek: Next Generation, Alien, Battlestar Galactica and 2001: A Space Odyssey. There’s even a nod to Isaac Asimov as well as a meta-textual sidebar about combining Homer’s Odyssey with Mad Men in a hybrid “holo-deck” simulation, “Look out Odysseus, it’s… feminism!” Adding to its unique appeal, the show is performed in an entirely dark theater with the only light emanating from the duo’s custom-built, million color, LED space helmets, creating an otherworldly aesthetic. Part light cue, part wardrobe– these helmets propel character and scene changes, making Moby Alpha literally brilliant.
Fittingly, the play opens with “Call Me, Ishmael,” repeated over and over again by Ishmael as he tries make his entry into the ship’s log despite an onboard computer’s rigid adherence to protocol. By “ship,” I mean the Starship Pequod, or “Peckwood” as Ishmael calls it. He likes the name – a window into Ishmael’s sophomoric outlook, which drives all the conflict between him and his shipmate, Queequeg. This updated Queequeg, now a Martian rather than Polynesian, is forced to endure Ishmael’s bigoted fascination with his diet. (No, he is NOT a cannibal!)
Captain Ahab/Picard is on board, as is Starbuck, or “Starbot” as he is called here. And just as Starbuck’s Quaker conscience started to override his obedience to hierarchy, Starbot begins to question Ahab’s increasingly reckless strategies. But Captain Ahab can’t help himself. He’s inherited, from his literary forebear, a mad quest for revenge against “Moby Alpha” the “great white energy cloud” which took his leg (though it was replaced with a bio-prosthetic leg cloned from his DnA and vastly superior to his original leg in every way.)
The drama builds to mayhem as Ahab/Picard “energizes” (“beaming up” being too “60s”) to neighboring ships where he encounters characters from other stories including the voice of a certain computer, “Hank,” who obsessively searches for his old pal, Dave, while writing bad poetry mourning Dave’s disappearance. Meanwhile, Dave sneaks around the ship’s deck undetected by Hank until Starbot, under Ahab’s orders, inadvertently exposes Dave – a sad affair.
You don’t need a PhD in space movie trivia to love this show. Besides being fully engaging and often hilarious, Moby Alpha is a perfectly constructed, emotionally satisfying story following the relationships between Starbot and Captain Ahab and between Ishmael and Queequeg. There’s even redemption for Ishmael, who convincingly transforms from schmuck to mensch in just fifty-five minutes. And if you want to know who’s really pulling the strings, there’s a meta-surprise at the end.
Moby Alpha is written and performed by the multi-talented comedy duo, Charles, aka, Chuck Armstrong and Charlie Stockman. Armstrong and Stockman move easily between characters, with the former handling more of the heavies, playing straight men to the latter’s goofballs and hapless heroes. Both actors have charisma to spare, supported by the strength of their writing. The other luminaries of the evening are Charles’ custom-built, million color, LED space helmets. Apparently, Stockman built the helmets himself. Add “engineer” to the list of talents that both men have in abundance.
Moby Alpha – By Chuck Armstrong & Charlie Stockman; directed by Chuck Armstrong & Charlie Stockman
WITH: Chuck Armstrong (Capt. Ahab, Queequeg, Various), Charlie Stockman (Cdr. Starbot, Ishmael, Various)
Presented in NYC by Charles and PM2 Entertainment. At The PIT LOFT, 154 W. 29th St (b/t 6th & 7th) New York, New York, 10001, Thursday, April 7 @9:00PM, Friday, April 8 @9:00PM., Sunday, April 10 @7:30PM, Thursday, April 14 @9:00PM. Tickets $20 at https://thepit-nyc.com/event/2016-04-07-moby-alpha/ For more information: www.mobyalpha.com. Running time: 65 minutes.