Featuring some of New Orleans’ funniest improvisational talents, the “Star Trek” send up “Trek-A-Go-Go” has an opportunity to become an ongoing event at Mid-City Theatre.
But if it’s going to build a regular audience, it needs to make a few changes in how it’s presented. The brainchild of director/producer Harold Gervais, the premise is simple. After a random hat drawing by the audience casts the show, a group of actors, with an assist from a spot-on sound design, cold-read an episode of the beloved NBC science fiction series.
This week’s presentation was the Halloween inspired “Cat’s Paw,” featuring witches, cat familiars and, of course, guys in red shirts getting killed.
And a final line from the opening scene that intones to Captain Kirk: “Leave this place, or you will all die.”
I particularly enjoyed James Bartelle’s Mr. Spock and Jake Bartush as an evil cat/alien/Fran Drescher, but each of the cast members acquitted themselves well in making the brisk evening worth the small admission price.
There are lots of fun extras, like an opening trivia contest, a series of intermission films that included outtakes from the original show and chances for the audience to participate in the unfolding action.
The collaborators just need to set their phasers a little stronger.
More attention to storytelling and less to funny voices or comic bits would move the proceedings along. It also would signal the producers take the event as seriously as the fans of the show do.
And that lack of seriousness leads me to my bigger problem.
I had fun, and I am encouraging you to go. But I wanted it to feel more than just a lark or private party being had by the show’s creators. That is a problem shared by a lot of similar material being done across the city.
You see, there is something afoot with live performance combined with a love of the geek.
Big crowds for “William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope,” a consistent audience for “Clue: A Burlesque Mystery,” and The Society of Sin’s strange/sexy combos of burlesque and cosplay are all indicative of an urge to present nerdy entertainment, capitalizing on the changing New Orleans audience demographic.
As the city’s audiences become younger, the demand for this sort of evening is going to continue to grow. But as of now, the scene is a dilithium crystal in the rough.
Very few of the producing entities for this brand of entertainment possess the technical sophistication of the city’s more mainstream theatrical offerings, much less the social media presence of the more traditional entertainment venues.
A crackerjack troupe of polished, committed thespians backed by a sharp technical apparatus has yet to emerge and dominate the geek market. Instead, what we have is a disparate group of Millennium Falcons running smuggling operations across the New Orleans theatre scene in the hopes of landing a big score to finance a bigger score down the line.
Or, closer to home, these artists are wildcatters. They suspect geeky riches lie on St. Claude, Toulouse and more out-of-the-way performance venues.
They have had those suspicions somewhat confirmed with the occasional gusher of attendance found at Mid City Theatre’s “Shakespeare’s Star Wars” or Skin Horse’s “The Nocturnes”.
But none of these artists have dropped their more traditional projects in favor of their crazy-dork-fueled aspirations. As of now, the projects remain vanity affairs and half commitments.
No one has gone all in with the sort of risky, high-stakes engagement to attract return audiences and become a performance starport for fantasy, horror, and sci-fi aficianados of all ages.
With apologies to “Trek-A-Go-Go,” they should heed Yoda’s advice to Luke Skywalker.
“Do. Or do not. There is no try.”