By Tulis McCall

More fun than a barrel of monkeys.  I cannot get that phrase out of my head – even though it is more or less distasteful and not PC.

I can think of not other phrase, however, to describe Return to the Forbidden Planet – an Intergalactic Fundraiser for Red Bull Theater (Jesse Berger, Founder and Artistic Director; Jim Bredeson, Managing Director)Guess who showed up??   Steven Boyer, Robert Cuccioli, Patrick Page, Mary Testa, Kim Exum, Kevin R. Free, Jo Lampert, Amy Spanger, Neil Degrasse Tyson, Michael Urie, Jeffrey Eugene Johnson, Ben Jones, Charlotte Maltby, Salisha Thomas.  Oh yeah…..

Not to mention a kick-ass band headed Greg Pliska and featuring Matt Deichtman on guitar, Jessie Nelson on drums, Pearl Rhein on Bass, Jenny Hill on Sax and Sarah Rice on Theramin (look it up).

WITH choreography by Tracy Bersley, costumes by Heather Jackson, projections by Joshua Thorson, sound by Patrick LaChance, and lighting by Paul Hudson.

Return to the Forbidden Planet is more than a take off based on The Tempest – Bob Carlton’s 1991 script goes where no person has gone before.  Sandwiched neatly between the after glow of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and the glorious train wreck of Hedwig, this tale of intergalactic exploration, romance and just plain old messed up storylines is a marvel. Star Trek meets Shakespeare.  Who knew??

This most excellent cast was having so much fun it was hard to be quiet.  When Captain Tempest (Robert Cuccioli) crash lands on the planet “belonging” to Dr. Prospero (Patrick Page) there is so much tongue-in-cheek it is a wonder anyone can speak.  This is high drama of the soap opera kind.  Betrayal is everywhere.  Hearts are won and lost.  And there is danger afoot.  The quotes from Shakespeare fly through the air like hot potatoes.  It is a mashup of iambic pentameter that feels more like a trapeze act.

All the music is what we (as in Boomers) grew up on.  “Great Balls of Fire,” by Jerry Lee Lewis, [“Shake, Rattle and Roll” by Bill Haley and The Comets, “Good Vibrations “ by the Beach Boys, “Wipe Out by the Surfaris. And finally“The Monster Mash,” by Bobby “Boris” Pickett pulled a few of us out of our seats.  It was so good that the younger-than-boomers were lapping every morsel up.

Red Bull Theater’s Return to the Forbidden Planet  was just one of those silly nights at the theatre which is also deadly serious.  The performers were on their game.  The direction and the choreographed movements as people read, sang, or stepped back into supporting roles were a thing of beauty.  The audience was there to celebrate Red Bull Theatre.  The volunteers and staff were determined that everyone would have the best time.  EVER.

If you are reading this, you probably were not there.

More’s the pity. I can only say that the NEXT time Red Bull Theater throws a party, you would do well to put it at the top of your list.  I will.

Return to the Forbidden Planet | Written by Bob Carlton | Directed by Gabriel Barre | A musical of Shakespearean Proportions