<em>Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe</em>&nbsp;at Hip Pocket Theatre

Review: Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe | Hip Pocket Theatre | Silver Creek Amphitheatre

Serial Thriller

Hip Pocket Theatre opens its 41st season with a tribute to one of the great sci-fi serials, Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe.

published Friday, June 9, 2017

Photo: Robert Bourdage
Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe at Hip Pocket Theatre


Fort Worth — After a weekend of washouts, Hip Pocket Theatre finally got a Sunday night dry enough to open its 41st season with Johnny Simons’ Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe, a tribute to the scenery-chewing (and delightfully cheesy) science-fiction comic strips and movie serials of the 1930s.

A do-or-die opening night audience, spattered with mud and keeping an eye on the skies, settled into HPT’s open-air theater and got just what it came for: a night of kicked-back, funky fun, and a stage full of space babes, ray gun totin’ dudes, and one bottle-blond hero setting off to battle the baddies and save the Earth…and maybe the universe.

Ah…it’s summer, and Hip Pocket’s back.

Simons has dipped into science fiction numerous times over the company’s 40-plus years, but Flash Gordon feels somehow like a promise kept, a boyhood memory brought to life. Floating on songs (“Ticket to the Moon,” “Hold on Tight to Your Dreams”) and classical riffs from the legendary Electric Light Orchestra, Simons’ saga is told in “Chapters!” like a real Saturday serial. It chronicles the long conflict between polo-playing, All-American Flash (James Warila) and Ming the Merciless (Michael Joe Goggans), despotic ruler of the planet Mongo—which, inconveniently, seems to be on a collision course with Earth.

Photo: Robert Bourdage
Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe at Hip Pocket Theatre

Conveniently, Flash knows Dr. Zarkov (Thad Isbell), a slightly mad scientist with a rocket—and it might get them to Mongo. “Are you sure this thing will work?” asks Dale Arden (Elysia Worcester), the girl Flash adores. “I’ve experimented with models,” says Zarkov—and off they zoom.

On Mongo, Flash & Co. battle double-decker monsters, Ming’s minions, Lion Men and winged Hawkmen who caw…a lot. Ming captures them now and again; his gutsy daughter Aura (Rebo Hill in leg-baring gold lame), helps them escape. They pick up a local friend, Thun (Jeffrey Stanfield), prince of the Lion Men, who helps on their adventures. Three Queens of the Universe (Peggy Bott Kirby, Kristi Ramos Toler, Jasmine Marie West) who introduce the chapters and exhort Flash to keep trying. There’s a mysterious moon lady (Julie Bellew) who may have a part to play. And in Simon’s adaptation, Ming the Merciless has a mother, Lady Ming (Dena Phillips). A mom? We do not recall that Ming had a Mom—but her presence certainly shrinks the Big Man down to a whiny boy.

Director Simon’s core group is especially strong here, and the actors absolutely sell this quirky throwback production. Even their body movements—Flash’s fancy punching style, Ming’s “ee-vile” raging, Aura’s clenched-fist pose as she glares at her father—look like a comic strip. And from time to time, a projection screen onstage mimics the live action by playing the corresponding scene from the Buster Crabbe Flash Gordon serials. Most important of all, everyone plays it straight…which of course makes the thing funnier still.

The usual big HPT ensemble carries lots of the action, sometimes literally: darling little hand-crafted rocket ships dance through space; ray guns are powered, apparently, by raspberries blown by the warriors who carry them. (Twilight neighborhood games sprang to mind: “You’re dead, I shot you!...No, you missed by a mile!”) Creative costumes and accessories delight the eye: shredded cape monster bodies, crested helmets, tiny planets made of whirling light.

We won’t say much more about the plot—it really just needs to flow in one ear and out the other, and that’s fine. There are a few jabs at Earth’s own troublesome “tyrants” and a final dance that ties things up in a bow…until next Saturday, of course, when Ming (or some other villain) will need to be fought again. Thanks For Reading

View the Article Slideshow
Click or Swipe to close
Serial Thriller
Hip Pocket Theatre opens its 41st season with a tribute to one of the great sci-fi serials, Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe.
by Jan Farrington

Share this article on Facebook
Tweet this article
Share this article on Google+
Share this article via email
Click or Swipe to close
Click or Swipe to close
views on theater, dance, classical music, opera and comedy performances
news & notes
reports from the local performing arts scene
features & interviews
who and what are moving and shaking in the performing arts scene
season announcements
keep up with the arts groups' upcoming seasons
listen to interviews with people in the local performing arts scene
media reviews
reviews and stories on performing arts-related film, TV, recordings and books
arts organizations
learn more about the local producing and presenting arts groups
performance venues
learn more about the theaters and spaces where the arts happen
keep up with fabulous ticket giveaways and other promotions
connect to local arts crowdfunding campaigns
post or view auditions and performing arts-related classes, services, jobs and more
about us
info on TheaterJones, our staff, what we do and how to contact us
Click or Swipe to close
First Name:
Last Name:
Date of Birth:
ZIP Code:
Your Email Address:
Click or Swipe to close
Join TheaterJones Around the Web

Follow Us on Twitter

Subscribe to our Youtube Channel

Click or Swipe to close
Search the TheaterJones Archives
Use any or all of the options below to search through all of reviews, interviews, features and special sections. If you are looking for a an event, use the calendar section of this website. This search will not search through the calendar.
Article Title Search:

Description Search:
TheaterJones Contributor:

TheaterJones Section:

Showing on or after:      Showing on or before:  
Click or Swipe to close
We welcome your comments

I am discussing:  

Your Name:
Your Email Adress:

please enter the text below and then click or tap SUBMIT :