Written and directed by Ken Parks with piano playing and musical direction by Rick Illes, “Back From the Future or Forward to the Pasture,” for the All American Melodrama Theater, offers an evening (or afternoon) of simple, unadulterated pleasure to audiences of all ages.
Legible, inventive, and spontaneous, it capitalizes on mayhem, mirth, comic pacing, improv and a script that can accommodate all these elements. It’s a full experience – hopes raised, possibly thwarted, and then realized. If only life were so tidy and so funny.
Combining the elements of science fiction with the antics of “Grease,” the story features Artie (Matt Riggle), high school student at Hell Valley High. He wants to go back in time to ensure that his parents, Greg (Eric Modyman) and Eileen (Courtney Moon), attend prom together. 25 years prior they didn’t. Greg, a brilliant, promising inventor, suffered amnesia when snarky Buff Tanman (Parks) mowed him down in his car. Buff then stole Greg’s notebook of ideas for inventions and became rich, famous, and even more obnoxious. Greg works for Buff as an accountant/dogsbody, Eileen endures his still-unwanted attention.
Salvation arrives in the form of a time-traveling Yugo. With it Artie visits (and we revisit) 1986 in all its glory. He avoids an Electra Complex with his teenage mother and arranges for his parents to go to the Prom on a bus, thus averting the accident. Dad becomes rich and all ends happily ever after. Well, mostly happily ever after. Since the past was altered, you won’t believe who’s now our President.
To the chagrin of some of us in the audience of a certain age, the production nails the fads, looks, and enthusiasms of 1985, that dreadful era of headbands, leg warmers, and huge mobile phones. It also references that long-ago time when MTV actually played music videos.
The acting is great, in no small part because the performers clearly enjoy themselves as we do. In his Einstein wig, Jones’s Doc Clown, shows how physics can be fun. Modyman’s Greg is nebbish but, especially in the romantic scenes, adorably so. Matt Riggle’s Artie is everything a melodrama hero should be: foursquare, righteous, and endearingly earnest. But stealing the show are Parks’s Buff and Moon’s Eileen. Parks makes Buff delightfully despicable and smarmily arrogant as the unbearable infomercial actor/idea thief. Moon makes Eileen, especially her 1985 Olivia Newton John version, energetically enthusiastic about the latest and greatest: glitter lipstick, pink leg warmers, puffy hair held back with a headband, all of which she wore with clueless pride in p.e. class.
The production proves once again that live theatre, at least melodrama as it’s performed here, offers a refuge where you can end the week, celebrate birthdays and anniversaries, and commune with strangers/new friends.
Performances are 7:30pm, Fri. & Sat, 4:30pm Sat and 7pm Sun. Due to the Grand Prix, there will no shows Apr. 15-17. The show runs until May 15. Tickets are $14-20. The Theater is located at 429 Shoreline Village Dr. For more info call 495-5900 or visit wwww.allamericanmelodrama.com.