“B-Movie Live!” begins before the audience has entered the downstairs space at Padre Bar, as some of the sci-fi spoof characters gather in the bar area. It is immediately clear that the show is going to be all sorts of fun, in an oddball way, just like the low-budget, over-the top genre that it parodies. And when, as we enter, audience members are each given a Barbie-type doll as earth woman for our protection from space aliens, it is a fitting introduction to a show sure to take you on a rambunctious and riotous ride.
It’s November 1964 and in a Long Island studio, a handful of actors meet to film an obscure low-budget science fiction movie “Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster”, set to pack punters in at the drive-in. There is barely a movie in the script but with the aid of props, costumes, sound effects and music, the experience is brought to life as they enact a robot astronaut battling Martians Princess Marcuzan (Kylie Stephenson) and her right-hand man Dr. Nadir (Trevor Holland) who have arrived on Earth with the sole purpose of kidnapping its women as breeding stock as all of the women on their planet have died in an atomic war, except for the Martian Princess (hence our instructions to keep our dolls out-of-sight).
Despite the hamminess required of the genre, performances are of variable energy. As Dr Adam Steele, who has created a robot from human body parts with intention to launch it into outer space, James Karen is appropriately over the top in his dialogue delivery and reactions. But the show belongs to Stephenson as the ditzy, basic actress Marilyn Hanold, particularly when overacting as the movie’s Princess Marcuzan. Her commitment to character not only brings both the story and its parody to life, but she makes it easy to put aside distracting noise level from the bar above.
The Padre Bar is always a difficult venue due to the intrusion of its upstairs conversation, however, the intimate downstairs area certainly suits the B movie set premise, staged as it is with inventive props showing an appreciated attention to detail, from a gorilla suit morphed into something else to an alfoil-wrapped everything, including miniature model flying saucers on strings largely c/o Producer and Supporting Player Kristian Fletcher.
Mention must also go to Chris Richards, the show’s narrator and the man behind the music and audio. And although it is claimed that the villain ‘is always the worst part’, Truly McCandless is all sorts of funny as the radioactive space monster/gorilla hybrid, without ever even mentioning a word.
“B-Movies Live!” is all sorts of silliness (#inagoodway), with its audience participation and engagement, particularly from the audience members chosen to assume the role of Colonel Frank (i.e. Frankenstein) Saunders. Its running time is longer than advertised, thanks perhaps to a largely unnecessary intermission. (Although it ends on a high, momentum does comparatively wane in the second act). And it is probably in need of a bit more polish to have its intent fully realised, but its out of the world comedy is perfect for a group night out with friends.
This review is based on the reviewer’s experience of the performance on May 13.