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THEATER REVIEW: “Red Planet Respite”

CircleCircledotdot’s Katherine Harroff gets a jump on commercial intergalactic tourism with her space farce “Red Planet Respite,” which introduces the test crew for a trip to Marsimerica’s new Pod Planet Resort, an escape haven for wealthy travelers.

Texas good ole boy “Teddy” Commons, CEO of builder GlobalCom Venture Capital, handles the PR chores on this introductory flight.

Dr. Lucian James (Justin Lang), inventor of the Robo-Limb, is a cocky (and horny) s.o.b. who can hardly keep his hands off current squeeze Addison Lee (Caitlin Ross), a blonde and lithe Olympic swimmer sponsored by Cosmovogueinstyle.com. But it is major investor Lucian that Teddy is most anxious to impress.

Also along are two engineers: upbeat Noah Robertson (Kevane La’Marr Coleman) and less-than-smiling Dr. Rivka Rosario (Jyl Kaneshiro), the extremely competent but grumpy captain of the crew.

Already at the resort is agro-geologist Dr. Shannon Castron (Jacque Wilke), a hoot in her dirt-encrusted spacesuit and straggly hair with leaves in it. She’s been stuck in the pod without human contact for a year, setting up sustainable food supplies at the resort.

She hasn’t been alone, exactly. The pod has Deimos (Soroya Rowley), the resort’s personal robotic companion and the most fun character of all, a sort of human-sized Siri who wants you to consider her your “personal space pal.”

The test crew gets to investigate the resort’s different pods: the control pod, the AgroPod and cafe, the virtual reality pod (where you can visit anywhere and anyone you like) and the bar – which, to Lucian and Noah’s disgust, only serves wine spritzers, and makes you blow into a breathalyzer to get out.

The 30-day, four-hour trip is host to the usual number of personality clashes and even a brawl on its way to the Mars landing. And once there, the unthinkable happens, leaving the crew to figure out a way to solve the problem.

This is a a fun show, with terrific design elements. Kristen Flores’ space ship design is impressive, as are Kristin McReddie’s costumes (especially for Deimos). Matt Lescault-Wood’s sound design, Noel Nichols’ lighting and Boyd Branch’s media design are equally fine.

“Red Planet Respite” is the first of two shows CircleCircledotdot will produce as this season’s Resident Theatre at La Jolla Playhouse. The show is the result of a four-month residency at Arizona State University (Harroff’s alma mater), where she interviewed scientists and researchers at the School of Earth and Space Exploration and the Mars Space Flight Facility.

As usual, Harroff takes swipes at commercialism, public nosiness about personal information and lack of interest in (not to mention ignorance of) science on the way by.

Science fiction geeks need to see this, and I’d also advise it for anyone desperate to get in out of the heat. The air conditioning at the Playhouse’s Forum is most welcome.

The details

“Red Planet Respite” plays through Sept. 28 at La Jolla Playhouse’s Mandell Weiss Forum, 2910 La Jolla Village Drive (on the UCSD campus).

Thursday through Saturday at 8 pm, Sunday at 4 pm.

Tickets: HERE or email: circle@circle2dot2.com.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.