by Shirley Lorraine
Interplanetary hi-jinx in high gear at Rubicon
It seems that no matter what the situation or scenario, William Shakespeare already has it covered. Based very loosely on Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Return to the Forbidden Planet uses a clever mix of science fiction, rock music and many of the Bard’s words to weave its tale. Author Bob Carlton debuted the musical in London in 1989 to rave reviews. Rubicon first presented it in 2016 and brought it back specifically for the theater’s 20th anniversary season.
Imagine Galaxy Quest meets Plan 9 meets Shakespeare.
The action begins the minute one enters the theater. Members of the crew of the ship Scientific Survey Flight Nine welcome patrons and assist in acclimating them to their surroundings and rules to follow while in flight.
As the voyage begins Captain Tempest (Daniel DeYoung) and the crew is introduced to their new Science Officer – a woman. Egads. She immediately abandons ship on the last shuttlecraft just before the ship crashes on an uncharted planet. The planet is ruled by Prospero (Kevin Bailey), a brilliant scientist who was rocketed there fifteen years ago by his wife, Gloria (Rebecca Ann Jonson) who coincidentally is the new Science Officer, before his greatest discovery was revealed. Their infant daughter Miranda was along and the two have been exiled on the lonely planet.
Captain Tempest welcomes Prospero onto his ship and things turn a bit crazy. Miranda (Kimberly Hessler), who is now of age, has never seen other men before and right away is struck by the Captain. The ship’s cook, Cookie (Andrew Huber), is smitten with Miranda and vows to win her over. Along the way we are introduced to Ariel (Larry Cedar), a quite hip and groovy robot.
The plot is a relatively simple one of love found, love lost, and love regained. The setting on a space ship armed with a rock band creates an entirely new way to present Shakespeare. It just continues to prove that his words are timeless, as they adapt easily to any situation, no matter how farfetched.
Return to the Forbidden Planet is just plain fun. Riddled with over 20 familiar tunes of the 50’s and 60’s such as Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood, Shake, Rattle and Roll and She’s Not There, the action is a continual panoply of sight, sound and surprises.
The cast is out of this world talented all around. The Navigation Officer (Eric Shorey) plays a mean synthesizer and the ship comes complete with its own on-board drummer, guitar players and back-up dancers. Shouldn’t they all?
The energy is electric. The stage setting is clever, with all the bells and whistles a space ship could have. On opening night there was a slight hitch in one mechanism and the cast dealt with it so well it took a few moments to realize anything was amiss. Shakespearean dialogue continued until all was resolved and the action progressed seamlessly.
If you caught the show in 2016, go again. If you missed it before, be sure to catch it this time before it spins back into space.
Return to the Forbidden Planet runs through November 4. Performances are Wednesdays at 2 and 7 p.m., Thursdays at 7 p.m, Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. Rubicon Theater, 1006 E. Main St, Ventura. www.rubicontheatre.org or (805) 667-2900 for tickets. Prices vary.