David Mamet’s delightfully absurdist play, “Revenge of the Space Pandas, or Binky Rudich and the Two-Speed Clock” directed by Matthew Anderson for the Garage Theatre, offers a fine replacement for the Theatre’s previously much-anticipated Christmas melodramas. Though it’s not Long Beach-based (it takes place in a small town outside Chicago and on a planet 50 million light years from Earth), it isn’t newly-written (Mamet wrote it in 1978), and it doesn’t set the forces of good against the forces of evil, it fills the same need as those melodramas. It’s staged for kids, though adults will enjoy it as well, it’s interactive, and, perhaps best of all, there’s a yummy post-show serving of lunafish casserole for each audience member.
A loopy plot drives the laugh-a-minute script while Anderson’s energetic direction and Levi Gadsen’s kid-perfect stage sets the tone for a story that reminds you, in case you’d forgotten, that, at Christmas time at least, there’s no place like home.
In the company of his chums, Vivian Mooster – “Mooster, not rooster!” - (Geraldine Uy) and Bob the Sheep (with Anderson filling in for Joe Howells), twelve-year-old Binky Rudich – “Rudich, not radish!” - (Douglas Thoin) would rather perfect his Two-Speed Clock, a time travel gadget, than eat the lunch that his mother, Mrs. Rudich (Aurea Tomeski), has prepared. To say that Binky is precocious is to put it mildly. The fact that he consorts with a sheep doesn’t seem in the least bit unusual. Surprisingly the rig works and the moment that Mrs. Rudich is about to assault the sanctuary of her son’s room, the trio find themselves far, far away on the planet of Crestview, so named in the hope that it would attract commercial development. Ruled by one George Topax (MS Cliff E. Threadgold), peopled with a lackey (Retainer – Jackie Riddle), a Jester (Dennis Lee Hoffman), space pandas (Boots – Lola Laguna Binkerd and Buffy – Kevin Rockway), and a has-been movie star (Farpis – Rebecca Cherkoss), the planet becomes the site of shear terror as Topax will stop at nothing to procure something from Bob the Sheep that will make him a BMOC (Big Man on Crestview). Will Binky and Vivian get their heads bashed in by a giant pumpkin? Will Farpis star in one last role, that of rescuer? Will the trio make it back in Earth in time for lunch?
Anderson successfully balances the danger that awaits our heroes on Crestview with that which awaits them should they not get home in time for lunch. The threats seem real, if not over the top; and kids will understand the consequences of not heeding the call of a mother with a voice like air raid siren. Having as much fun playing their roles as the audience did watching them, the cast turned in a fine ensemble performance.
Performances are 8pm, Fri, 2pm & 7PM, Sat, and 2 PM, Sun. The show runs until Dec. 19. Tickets are $10-15. The Theatre is located at 251 E. 7th St. For more info call 433-8337 or visit www.the garagetheatre.org.