Last year, Chicago Shakespeare offered We Are Out There, a digital sneak peek of Joe Kinosian and Kellen Blair’s goofy musical adaptation of the 1953 Universal Pictures sci-fi film, It Came From Outer Space, which was itself based on an original story by Ray Bradbury. Now it’s finally onstage at Chicago Shakes’s cozy upstairs studio space in a production that’s loaded with groanworthy jokes (including a long setup to a Bradbury shout-out), cheesy effects, and everything else you need for the live theatrical equivalent of a retro night at a drive-in. (Well, no popcorn inside the theater.)
It Came From Outer Space
Through 7/31: Wed-Fri 7:30 PM, Sat 2 and 7:30 PM, Sun 3 PM; open captions Wed 7/20, ASL interpretation Fri 7/22, audio description Sun 7/24; Chicago Shakespeare Theater, 800 E. Grand, 312-595-5600, chicagoshakes.com, $50-$60
The story follows John Putnam (Christopher Kale Jones), a wannabe “astronomer-astrologer” who is convinced that aliens have landed near tiny Sand Rock, Arizona (a town whose main attraction is a sand museum). Because John is an annoying know-it-all, no one believes him, except for his schoolteacher girlfriend, Ellen (Jaye Ladymore), who is also the object of affection of the surly and not-so-bright Sheriff Matt (Alex Goodrich). But then the townspeople start acting really weird.
With a spritely score, clever direction by Laura Braza, cunning sets, lights, costumes, video, and sound design (by Scott Davis, Heather Sparling, Mieka van der Ploeg, Rasean Davonté Johnson, and Nicholas Pope, respectively), and a skosh of social commentary (we fear the “other” before we really try to understand them), it’s an absolute toothsome delight start to finish. The entire ensemble (most of whom play multiple roles) is pitch-perfect, including Jonathan Butler-Duplessis as everything from a verbose telephone lineman to Coral, the barfly/confidante for Ellen who blows the roof off during “I Can’t Figure Out Men”; Sharriese Y. Hamilton as the energetic local muckraker; and Ann Delaney as a daffy old woman and as one of the aliens, who achieves maximum expressiveness with her tentacle appendages.