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Mountain – at Mount Vernon United Methodist Church, 900 Massachusetts Ave NW
Remaining Performance Stardates:
Saturday, July 16, 2:45 p.m. Sunday, July 17, 9 p.m. Wednesday, July 20, 10 p.m. Friday, July 22, 8:15 p.m.
They say: “At a Star Trek convention, actor William Shatner aka Captain Kirk is murdered. It’s up to a group of Trekkies to solve the crime. The only problem is they are all also suspects in an interactive murder mystery where the audience decides whodunit.”
Chris’s Take: Fringe shows aren’t always absent production value, though one should never expect it. But before Who Killed Captain Kirk? has even begun, you can see the crew of ClassiqueNoveau isn’t messing around: Their onstage replicas of the U.S.S. Enterprise‘s captain’s chair and navigation console are quite convincing. Their uniforms pass muster, too. There’re even actual! sound! cues! from the beloved show. Like the synopsis says, we’re at a Star Trek convention, where we meet a lovable bunch of Trekkies in various stages of self-acceptance, all awaiting the arrival of Starfleet’s most courageous, most resourceful and most arbitrarily cadenced officer, you-know-who.
Well, his name is in the title. Which is a fortunate thing, because if it wasn’t, there’s a small chance you might think I was referring to one Capt. Jean-Luc Picard. And then I would have to punch you in the face.
So: Let it be understood that the characters and situations referenced herein are those of the original, Apollo Program-era Star Trek.
The one that counts.
Not any bullshit, squeaky-clean spinoff Trek with a wacky android or the Reading Rainbow guy or a colon after its name, wherein the captain’s shirt never, ever gets torn off while he is fighting a reptilian Gorn on a planet of orange styrofoam rocks.
I’m glad we understand each other.
The most astute element of playwright Paco Madden‘s scenario here is the way he uses the various Trekkies’ identification with their favorite characters as a way to talk—-albeit filthily—-about race and gender. Jasmin Johnson, as the Trekkie who’s cast herself as Kirk, is a black woman. We have a female Mr. Spock, too—-the superb Mundy Spears, playing a smart fan just self-aware enough to feel a little embarrassed by how believable a Vulcan she is. (Her secret? High-functioning autism.) Jon Odom is our transgendered, Latina Lt. Uhura, whose name he pronounces “a whore.” That’s a good overall tricorder reading of the level of sophistication.
Works for me!
Aye, Captain—-the actual comic warp nacelles powering this thing through its 65-minute mission are mostly sitcom-grade, but the go-for-broke performances sell it. Dylan Jackson’s “Bones” McCoy is an equal-opportunity horndog. Linden Tailor, the convention’s Sulu, has perphaps too many occasions to point out he’s not Chinese, he’s Filipino! The event planner charged with getting the convention shipshape in advance of Shatner’s arrival (a game Katherine Reinert) is a casually bigoted white-girl-of-privilege. Etc.
Then there’s the whole audience-participation schtick, wherein we the jury get to decide which of these characters actually done Shatner in. (He expires offstage in his hotel room, possibly while receiving a massage—-still a more dignified send-off than he got in 1994’s forgettable Star Trek: Generations.) That element of the show plays like an afterthought, but whatever. Like most audience-participatory outings, this’ll seem better the later it is/drunker you are.
ClassiqueNoveau, the company responsible for this play, has a Prime Directive—- er, mission statement—-“to tell age old stories from a perspective that is feminist, looks beyond race, religion, or sexual orientation, and embraces our common humanity.” Indeed, Who Killed‘s affectionate homage includes many riffs on the classic TV show’s homilies vis-a-vis inclusion and tolerance.
So in that spirit I’ll say that if you happen to prefer Star Trek: The Neutered Generation, that’s cool. I’ll bet you like Sean Lennon albums and Frank Stallone movies, too.
But I think I speak for the majority of the Federation when I say: Fuck that shit. Who Killed Captain Kirk? will delight—-or at least divert—-fans of the Trek wherein the characters sweat, bleed, have (lightly implied) sex, and even express frustration with one another when appropriate.
The one where the men wear more eyeliner than the women.
The one where Chief Medical Officer “Bones” is all like, “Dammit Jim, I’m a doctor of semiotics, not a physician!” whenever his boss asks him to do any work at all.
The one where Spock—-who is, despite being regularly subjected by Bones to the racist epithet “green-blooded,” half-human—-pretends not to notice how Nurse Chapel is always bringing him soup and stuff. She obviously has a case of (half) Vulcan Fever. And if Spock’s famous observational powers haven’t shown him that, then he is a terrible science officer.
See it if: You’ve ever given yourself Carpal Tunnel trying to perfect your Vulcan nerve-pinch.
Skip it if: You don’t know or care how Kirk became the only Starfleet midshipman ever to defeat the Kobyashi Maru simulator.