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The Intergalactic Nemesis’: outstanding performance

Kevin Noonan | Sunday, April 1, 2012

 

Sometimes it’s not the story that matters, but how you tell it. Saturday night at the Debartolo Performing Arts Center “Intergalactic Nemesis” told its story in one of the most uniquely fascinating ways conceivable.

The show originated as a radio play, for voice actors to act out over the airwaves while that sort of thing was still popular. It then evolved into a comic book, giving visualization to words and characters previously only heard.

But that wasn’t enough for Jason Neulander, creator of the show. Both the radio play and the comic book are limited in their storytelling capabilities, but combined, they open a whole new world of entertainment possibilities.

That’s exactly what Neulander did, and because of it the show succeeds in the most wonderful ways.

The audience is intrigued from the time they step in the theater. The stage, devoid of any scenery or backdrop one might normally expect for a theater performance, is instead filled with an odd assortment of what look to be everyday items on a table center stage and three 1900s-era microphones off to the left.

The show itself is nonstop action from the start, with twists, turns and wide array of colorful characters, all voiced by three actors who nevertheless sound distinct and genuine.

The plot is authentic to the time period to which the show pays homage, with the kind of light-hearted mystery common in depression era radio plays and graphic novels. Even the voice actors speak in the diction and cadence of a bad black-and-white movie from the ’30s.

The show is very self-aware, and that quality might be the key factor that elevates the show from just being above-average to being uniquely exciting. The actors are aware the plot is a bit ridiculous, and they aren’t performing to win an Oscar, so they feel free to overact and be as absurd as possible.

That self-awareness results in a show that is entertaining not just for its unique presentation values, but also for the continuing laughs.

The actual graphic novel was also very impressive. It was projected, frame-by-frame, on a screen at the back of the stage, and each frame was as beautifully and expressively drawn as the next.

But the best part of the show by far is the on-stage foley artist. The foley artist’s job is to create the sound effects that go along with the plot. The role is extremely necessary in such a show, because without one the performance would quickly become dry and unexciting.

However, this show’s foley artist goes above and beyond just being on stage. As mentioned before, the sound effects table is center stage, so the audience’s attention is often drawn to the artist. And she didn’t just make the sound effects; she was a magnificent nonverbal actor and an active part of the show.

She reacted to every plot twist or ridiculous act of a character with an equally impressive or hilarious facial expression, all while shaking a sheet of plastic to make thunder or slapping two pieces of wood together, or one of the other million little things she did throughout the show to keep it moving.

All in all, “Intergalactic Nemesis” was a wonderful show, and the world should wait on pins and needles for Neulander and his team to unveil a sequel, which he says he plans to in the near future.

Contact Kevin Noonan at knoonan2@nd.edu