Dallas — Space is the place. The year: 1962. From the very first scene, complete with screen crawl revealing that this is Chapter XXXVIII of the complete Indiana Solo saga, the audience buckles up for a riotous play that takes place very much unlike (or maybe just completely opposite) the Star Wars saga: a short time ago and in a nearby galaxy.
Alex Wade directs Indiana Solo and the Hunt for the Jeweled MacGuffin by the hilarious playwright Kevin Michael Fuld. The swashbuckling space farce is produced by Camp Death Productions and runs through July 8 at the Margo Jones Theatre inside Fair Park’s Magnolia Lounge.
Director Wade also does double duty, playing Professor Exposition, renowned scientist and father to heroine Dr. Karen Exposition. The professor is one of the few truly likeable characters, but that’s intentional. Fuld isn’t going to be dismissed as just another fanboy. This is not your parents’ Harrison Ford.
As the title indicates, the hero of the story is Indiana Solo, known to friends as “Diana.” The inter-galactically famous horndog archaeologist, however, is played by Hallie Davidson. That’s right: Fuld’s space romp embraces gender-bending casting.
Davidson shines in the hero’s role, though it may be a bit confusing that Indiana Solo is still a male character. Davidson brings great comic timing to the stage, especially during her near-constant attempts to seduce the female characters. Solo’s sidekick Nerfherder, a Wookie-like creature who communicates through grumbles and growls, is ably portrayed by Andrew Bryan.
Jeny Siddall is feminist wannabe-cum-damsel in distress Dr. Karen Exposition, the heroine of the story. Her sidekick, the robot THX (pronounced “thicks”), who won’t let anyone forget that’s she’s actually an android, is played by Ashley Bownds. Both actors embrace the absurdity of their characters, allowing the audience to sit back and have a good time.
The story wouldn’t be complete without an army of antagonists who attempt to foil the hero’s plan to find the Jeweled MacGuffin. Looking suspiciously like a cubist version of the classic and iconic MacGuffin the Maltese Falcon, its untold power attracts the attention of space Nazis, who intend to exploit its power for evil. Of course. That’s just what space Nazis would do. Rhonda Durant is perfect as the Reich’s Admiral Fogger. She seems to be the only one who gets that tricky, overplayed accent right.
Shanna Gobin Threlkeld does a great job with the production’s costume design. She borrows heavily from the referenced films while giving the costumes a fresh retro and low-tech vibe. Prop designer Mason Brunkelman’s work is also notable, even though at the performance reviewed, the actors didn’t believably engage with the Infinity Condor’s control console in several scenes.
The projected visuals, creatively borrowed from film stills, work quite well. They serve as visual shortcuts to scene jumps, helping to easily and effectively remind the audience just where in the galaxy the action is taking place at any given moment.
On Saturday night, energy lagged a bit during Act I, and there were a handful of missed technical cues, including background visuals being changed at the wrong time and lines being delivered before lights come up. These bobbles should hopefully be fixed by now.
Dylan Mobley, who plays DJ Wolfman Jack, also serves as sound designer. His design adds a professional-level element to the production, though during the first few scenes, the music was too loud, forcing the actors to shout.
The family-friendly comedy (except for that one F-bomb) is steeped in the mythology of several film genres, from the MacGuffin of film noir and Hitchcock classics, to the canonical sci-fi and adventure movies of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. References to other Harrison Ford films abound, including Witness and, to great comic effect, The Fugitive. But you don’t need to know all the references to enjoy this high camp screwball comedy.
Knowing them, though, makes the scenes all the more amusing, especially during what is probably one of the funniest cliffhangers you’ll see onstage.