A space cowboy from earth, his indebted martian side kick, the voice of an artificial intelligence saloon door in love, and an outlaw robot decked from head to toe in silver: Together, they paint an eclectic picture, exhibiting the ridiculousness that is the space-western musical comedy “Written in the Stars.”
The first theater production from Hillel’s new theater company, the Pale Blue, “Written in the Stars,” is running this weekend from November 16 to 18 in the Rennert Hall of the Kraft Center for Jewish Student Life. David Treatman, GS/JTS ’20, who acted as director, producer, and designer, adapted the musical from a popular recurring segment “Sparks Nevada: Marshal on Mars,” from the podcast “The Thrilling Adventure.”
Treatman described the program as a “new-time podcast in the style of old time radio.”
“The ... challenge was consolidating a serial segment with over 60 episodes and hundreds of characters in to [sic] a standalone feature of about 90-ish minutes,” Treatman wrote in his Director’s Note, “I wanted to preserve the critiques of classic 1950’s and wild west tropes, gender roles, and xenophobia that were present in the podcast.”
The old-timey, borderline farcical nature of the comedy was captured in “Written in the Stars,” which amalgamated ridiculousness, meta-humor, and melodrama. Living on Mars, earthborn Sparks Nevada (Jack Becker, CC ’21) is caught between a love affair with his human lover, Western Sector novelist Rebecca Rushmore (Camryn Bolkin, GS/JTS ’21) and his daring marshal lifestyle of apprehending outlaws and upholding the law.
A number of exaggerated personalities support the story of Nevada’s adventures. Brent Morden, CC ’19, stands out as the omnipresent barkeep who always has an eye on the action—just as long as it stays outside of his bar. And Sarina Maurice, BC/JTS ’20, was equally compelling as Red, whose desire to uphold the law is set against her softer side, exposed by a blossoming infatuation with partner Cactoid Jim, played by Gabe Pont, GS/JTS ’20.
Interspersed musical numbers carried “Written in the Stars” to its liveliest moments. The show opened with a bang, the song “Sparks’ Theme” introducing the production’s shoulder-bopping chorus and the zaniness to follow. The highlight performance, however, was the titular number “Written in the Stars,” a love-song duet between Red and Cactoid Jim, imbuing the satire with heartwarming tenderness.
However, given that this is Treatman’s first workshop production of “Written in the Stars,” this newly adapted musical has room for development.
As the first show ever staged in Rennert Hall, the space was inherently unconventional: Though the hall is not unconducive to theater, the makeshift stage made it difficult for audience members to fully immerse themselves, causing the production to feel unfinished. The brevity of the disparate scenes, which are set in different locations across Mars, led to a considerable number of scene changes (most of which were protracted), slowing the overall pace of production. Even still, audience captivation and speed improved as the second act progressed with fewer changes and longer scenes.
Though lacking a certain degree of polish and completion in its current iteration, “Written in the Stars” still remains an entertaining intersection of adventure, comedy, and romance. With a solid launch, Treatman’s musical has potential to reach the stars.