Who Am I?

Photo Credit: Jackie Abbott Photography
Aliens Coming: The Musical
Written by Joe Kelly
Directed by Griffin Osborne
Presented by Ashcat Productions at The People's Improv Theater, NYC
August 17-September 18, 2017

To open Aliens Coming: The Musical, the disembodied head of an alien computer (Misha Brooks) provides one interpretive lens for the interspecies comedy to follow: high school students represent a microcosm of human beings' grievous overestimation of their own individual importance in the universe. Even before the titular extraterrestrials in Joe Kelly's play arrive, the particular place in the universe occupied by Clementine Tweedy (Alice Kors) is in a state of transition, placing her relationship with lifelong BFF Brandi Boudoir (Maia Scalia) into conflict with her recent integration into a crew of art kids (Rebecca Lampiasi, Ashley Hutchinson, and Tessa Stokes) led by Brooklyn (Ariana Raygoza), who signal their cool by pairing dresses with sneakers and cigarettes.Brandi's unabashed love of YouTube make-up tutorials no longer fits with Clementine's desire to see herself as a "real" artist, and Brandi's feelings of isolation make her the perfect target for the aliens' multi-phase scheme. These beings from beyond the stars, who share a retro aesthetic with the art kids, sporting white jumpsuits and bold colored stripes on their faces, plan to exploit Brandi's lack of love and validation in conjunction with the power of the internet (and a mesmeric talisman) in order to effect a surreptitious takeover of the planet. Once on Earth, however, while robots (doubled by the art kids) dispatched by the humorless Zooby Doober (Trevor McGhie) and wearing half-masks whose creepiness is offset by a springy, more-than-vaguely phallic protuberance on their foreheads, successfully capture Brandi, Smib (Andrew L. Ricci), like a dimmer Shakespearian Puck, mistakes Clementine for the "loud, emotionally vulnerable girl" whom he is supposed to find.

After Smib's encounter (in multiple sense of the term) with Clementine and consultation with the computer about his physical and emotional feelings, he decides that he is in love, which introduces some problems with his purpose in visiting Earth: his people had long ago decided to banish sex, as a great evil, from society in favor of logic, necessitating that they harvest genitals from other planets to power their own machine-based reproduction. Aside from Smib's discovery that sex is actually quite fun, Brandi's worldwide influence proves unexpectedly troublesome for Zooby Doober. If power corrupts, then will absolute power over the genitals of all humanity corrupt absolutely? Will it be too much to handle for a high-school senior seeking the love and validation that she lacks offline through YouTube analytics and the online comments of billions of worshipful strangers? And will the final letter in BFF end up standing for forever or for failure?

Aliens Coming weaves some light satire into these narrative threads, of religion as cynically constructed social control, of YouTube culture, of self-construction and authenticity (including what Smib refers to as decorating our meat). It also takes some jabs at hormonal teenagers, as well as at the current occupant of the office of United States President. Its primary aim, though, is to be entertaining and funny, and it unquestionably succeeds. The production is well-paced and the songs, accompanied by live piano onstage, well-crafted (and for those who find any of the catchier numbers stuck in their heads, the cast album is available on iTunes and Spotify). The cast puts forth terrific performances. Amongst all the farce around them and while being very funny themselves, Alice Kors and Maia Scalia get the audience to invest in Clementine and Brandi. Trevor McGhie and Andrew L. Ricci execute plenty of great individual comedic moments, such as the running joke of Zooby prissily insisting that he be called "Mr. Doober" or the scene of Smid's confused post-coital wonderment, and together they create a comic interplay reminiscent of Futurama's Mom and Igner. "The Musical" subtitle has become a go-to ironism, but Aliens Coming feels fresh, is a bit queer in places, and even, unexpectedly, turns out to have actual stakes. Fans of tuneful, genially raunchy silliness will find plenty to like here. - Leah Richards and John Ziegler