The Warehouse, 1019 7th St. NW
Remaining Performances: Thursday, July 15 at 9 p.m. Sunday, July 18 at 9 p.m. Sunday, July 25 at 11 a.m.
They Say: It’s a sci-fi rock opera.
Dee’s Take: James Levy‘s ‘When ET Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest’ is an attractive concept for sci-fi geeks who love music. With some work this play could be a Broadway production—desires its program shares openly.
There are three features the play derives its strength from: the script, the actors and the sound/music. Here’s the breakdown: Though the plot is goofy, downright bizarre even, the idea of extra-terrestrials wanting a ’90s rockstar as the first intergalactic ambassador flys. It’s to the point, though an unconventional one: ETs contact Joan, she thinks she’s lost her mind, goes to a sanitarium, ETs contact her again, and the story crescendos.
But here’s the real reason it delivers: the cast. This is a stellar cast—each could own a song. And, since ‘When ET Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest’ is a rock opera, well, it’s all song. In other words, it would be dreadful with performers who weren’t up to the challenge. However, Emily Webbe, as Joan, is a pro. Then Randall Holloway, who plays Tracy, steals the scene. Rightfully so as well, because when I go to see a rock opera, that’s the kind of ‘Rent’-type shit I wanna see. Additionally, Avviane Washington is impressive in her turn as a “visitor.” She’s young, still in high school, but she holds her own among this cast of seasoned artists.
Though the other performers experienced rough patches, I’m hesitant to pass judgment. There was some high-pitched feedback from the speakers at one point and I couldn’t help but think that some levels were off. Additionally, there were too many times when the band was louder than the vocalists. Musicians, check your equipment!
My one beef is that the score seemed like an amalgamation of nondescript ’90s mainstream rock. I was consuming lots of music in the ’90s, and there was better stuff out there. Having said that, there were times I thought “That’s better.” As far as Fringe goes, you may not see a tighter production.
See it if: You like music and high quality performers with ‘Rent’-esque moments.
Skip it if: You don’t want to hear even a second of Toad the Wet Sprocket meets Nelson. (Look ’em up for a laugh.)