Starship bloopers

Resident Alien

Rated 3.0

Resident Alien is a light (or should we say “weightless"?) comedy involving a green-skinned space traveler—a busboy, actually—who gets left behind when the mothership makes a research stop in rural Wisconsin. Playwright Stuart Spencer spins a cotton-candy mix of pop-culture references and junk-food jokes, counterbalanced with a bit of intellectual name-dropping (possibly to allay the nagging concern that you’re watching kids’ stuff).

If it all sounds familiar, it should. Sacramento’s B Street Theatre staged Resident Alien three summers ago, and now the Foothill Theatre Company of Nevada is giving the script a try.

But there’s a difference between the two productions. The B Street’s version was antic and nervous, with a wee bit of sophomoric cynicism. It also favored the references to movies, and felt (as much as anything) like a pilot episode for a TV series.

The Foothill production, under the direction of Sheldon Deckelbaum, has a somewhat different flavor. Deckelbaum shrewdly utilizes Foothill’s larger stage to give the show a roomier feel. The characters, while still broad, also have a little more room to breathe. You’ve still got the goofy booze-sloshing drunk scenes and the lampoon of TV talk shows. But there are also quiet little interludes where the male human lead—an intellectual sort who can’t fit into his K-Mart job in a small Midwestern town—makes a believable, heartfelt case for reading Ibsen. The ending becomes something of a fable of identity, rather than a slick way to tidy up loose ends while picking up a final laugh.

I don’t want to push the point too far. The leopard hasn’t changed its spots, and Resident Alien remains a light summer comedy—but it’s a better-rounded one in this production. Timothy Orr turns in a versatile performance as the green alien, John J. Gardiner does a nice job fleshing out straight man Michael, and Hanna Rahilly goes into a fit of semi-Irish pique as Michael’s ex-wife. And credit to director Deckelbaum for finding a little something in a script I’d previously regarded as junk food.