THEATER | Upright Egg’s “Venus”: Volcanoes, pancakes, and green-haired alien sex kittens

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I’ve been meaning to go see an Upright Egg production ever since I wrote a preview about their show Uranus two years ago. I appreciate the company’s attempts to produce “green” theater and their endeavor to create a series of ecologically-inspired plays (which Upright Egg co-produces with NYC-based green theater collective Superhero Clubhouse).

Some of the “green” initiatives the company has been doing include using as few paper scripts as possible, rehearsing in fluorescent-lit rooms, and biking or using public transportation to rehearsals and performances. They also collaborated with TC Maker to design a device that would power all their lighting for the show using a stationary bike (although the device wasn’t working or hadn’t generated enough power to be able to use it by the time I saw the performance on Saturday).

venus (a play about energy), presented at the firefighters hall and museum through october 3. for reservations (pay what you can) and information, see uprightegg.com.

Upright Egg’s current show, Venus, looks at a group of Earthling refugees who have set up a commune on Venus where they make pancakes all day. Their equilibrium is put off-balance with the entrance of a green-haired alien sex kitten (Larissa Shea) who seduces one of their number and all hell breaks loose.

The ecological message of the play is cloaked in the collective wet dream unconscious of the science fiction tradition, complete with archetypal characters and forces of good and evil. Both the story and the message were compelling, although the play was too long, encumbered by the show’s physical staging.

Normally I really like physical theater, but in this case it seemed too interpretive-dance-y as opposed to organic (they lost me when the actors “became” pancakes on a griddle). The repetitive movements were very gestural, and seemed more like a viewpoints exercise than a performance. I also didn’t like that for much of the play the actors were in a circle. I realize this was probably a directorial choice to show how cut-off the people living on Venus were, but it resulted in cutting me off from engaging in the story.

I also felt the production values of the script were lacking. I realize the company was trying to be “green,” and also that Upright Egg is a small company with a low budget, but I would have liked to have seen a little more conceptual ambition in terms of the set and costume design, which seemed thrown together. I’m not asking for big budget glitz and glam, but I think with a little creativity and imagination they would have been able to create a greater sense of a different place besides the Firefighters Hall and Museum, which was where the show was performed.

Ultimately, they need to take the focus away from the theater company itself—its process, its choices, its way of doing things—and put all their efforts into engaging the audience. After all, one small theater company making earth-friendly choices makes a very small difference—but that effect grows if they are able to draw the audience into the dialogue.