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 Kmart 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.