By Maia Nolan
It’s summer, and that means it’s blockbuster season in Hollywood — three months of outrageous escapes, over-the-top special effects and fantastic adventures. TBA Theatre is jumping on the blockbuster bandwagon, too, with “The Head That Wouldn’t Die,” a hilarious sendup of 1950s thrillers that opened this weekend at Cyrano’s. Science fiction fans, rejoice: Here is the play for you.
Written by Rand Higbee and originally debuted at the Last Frontier Theatre Conference in Valdez, “The Head That Wouldn’t Die” winks at vintage Hollywood sci-fi movies and revels in camp. High drama it’s not, but it sure is fun. Think of it as theatrical ice cream: You wouldn’t want to live on it, but you should certainly enjoy a little now and then.
Shane Mitchell directs a competent cast anchored by four principals filling four archetypal roles: There’s Eleanor Janecek Delaney as Janice, the brainy girl; Lindsay Lamar as Penny, the pretty girl; Todd Glidewell as Glen, the jock; and Carl Bright as Luke, the nerd. All four are in possession of excellent comic timing, and Mitchell puts them to work getting the most out of it. Glidewell’s Glen is simultaneously abrasive and endearing; Lamar is winning as the prissy girl who shows her mettle when it counts; Bright pulls off geeked-out hysteria without ever becoming grating. But it’s Janecek Delaney who is the most fun to watch, with a pliable, expressive face and overly-profound delivery lifted straight out of “The Twilight Zone.”
Higbee’s script is fast-paced and funny, and being at least a little bit of a sci-fi geek will help you get all the jokes (listen for verbal homage to “Star Wars,” “Star Trek,” “Dune” and other classics, as well as the original Adam West “Batman” movie). Part of the Hollywood conceit includes narration by Janice during scene changes, and while this starts to feel a bit repetitive at times, it also makes for some great comedic moments.
And then there’s the atmosphere. In addition to technical elements that complement the play’s goofy, vintage feel, TBA brings the mood into the lobby, where theatergoers are greeted as they walk in by white-capped nurses passing out releases warning that the play may cause a litany of afflictions ranging from hysteria to Hong Kong flu.
Add in a little Buddy Holly and a root beer float during intermission, and the only thing missing from this live-action Saturday matinee is the smell of popcorn drifting in from the concession stand.
“The Head That Wouldn’t Die” runs Thurs.-Sat. at 7 p.m. and Sun. at 3 p.m., now through July 27, at Cyrano’s Off-Center Playhouse, 413 D Street. Tickets at www.centertix.net or (907) 263-2787