There are countless new, interesting, and vibrant plays being written these days. Playwrights are creating works that push the boundaries of their audiences, invent new worlds worth exploring, and remind us why live theater should be supported and encouraged. They Came from Way out There is not one of these plays.
Written by Jahnna Beecham, Malcolm Hillgartner, and Michael Hume, TCFWOT is a trite mishmash of genre clichés and stilted writing, with a score that steals from every musical genre without once creating anything interesting.
Adapted from Erik Brogger's play The Paranormal Review, TCFWOT places the audience at the first-ever presidential election of the Paranormal Society. To demonstrate their suitability for the office, each of the five candidates presents their paranormal qualifications in song and dance.
What could have been a light, funny treatment of a subculture that's rife with crazy characters is instead an exercise in the audience's endurance.
It's not for lack of trying on the cast's part. Despite the clunker of a script and ham-fisted direction by co-author Beecham, the five-member ensemble endeavors mightily to present an entertaining show. Unfortunately, it's too much for most of them. The notable exceptions are Susannah Mars as Victoria and Kevin Michael Moore as Dr. Fleet. Moore, especially, understands that comedy requires nuance and timing, and makes an excellent attempt at transcending the material.
With "wacky" characters, "crazy" mix-ups, and exaggerated mugging that beg the audience to laugh, TCFWOT is a mess. It's a jumbled non sequitur that, in trying desperately to be unique, has nothing original to offer.
It's a surprising choice for ART—not, as Artistic Director Allen Nause's letter in the program indicates, because it's silly and funny, but because it's so profoundly not. Out of all the theaters in Portland, ART most consistently selects intriguing works that showcase the vibrancy of contemporary theater. There are so many playwrights today creating works that actually say something, it's a shame ART has wasted its time—and more importantly, ours—with one that says nothing at all.