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Thirty-five years after Pete Townshend threw down the rock-opera gauntlet, few composers have dared accept the challenge. Now, James Levy bravely ups the ante by adding science-fiction to the genre with When E.T. Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. After much time spent on the project, Levy says he had “both a story and a message to tell,” adding “If I try to go for a larger form, [rock opera]’s the form.” Noting how God has disappeared as an imperative for doing good, Levy substitutes embarrassment as a motivating force. A modern Joan of Arc (rocker Patty Reese) makes a video about the shameful state of this modern world—then checks into a loony bin. The second act brings the aliens, who not only liked the video, but have their own rock band, named, appropriately, the Visitors. Levy calls his show “slightly serious” but notes that it’s also “lighthearted” with “a lot of dancing.” The pinball’s back in your court, Pete. The show plays all weekend, beginning tonight at 4 p.m. at the Takoma Theatre, 4th and Butternut Streets NW. $18. (202) 291-8060. (Dave Nuttycombe)