“Space Girl” conquers the forces of cardboard at Bedlam Lowertown

“Space Girl” conquers the forces of cardboard at Bedlam Lowertown

As the cast of Space Girl took their bows on Thursday night at Bedlam Lowertown, I did some quick math in my head. First, I compared the per-chuckle cost of a ticket to Space Girl to the per-chuckle cost of a ticket to Avengers: Age of Ultron, and figured that you get at least four times as many laughs per dollar at Space Girl. Then I worked out the per-chuckle cost of the productions’ budgets, and it’s there that the numbers—given that Age of Ultron cost at least $249,999,000 more than Space Girl—get really staggering.

Space Girl is a science fiction spoof, and one of the most charming things about it is that it could have been made in 1977. It’s both a satire of and a salute to the sci-fi spectaculars of the mid-20th century, from Buck Rogers to Star Wars—but mostly Star Trek, with its particle-board consoles and its disposable red-shirts and its moral uprightness. The sets are made of cardboard, the costumes are straight out of Grandma’s dress-up chest, and the mission is incomprehensible.

Well, let me see what I can remember. (I was sipping the show’s custom cocktail, “the Final Salute,” so things get a little fuzzy towards the end.) The trigger-happy Space Girl (Bree Schmidt) and her sidekick (Michelle Hernick, full of cybernetic implants and the stories behind them) are the last, best line of defense against Emperor Dread Lord, a flamboyant supervillain who’s finally perfected a devastating ray gun. (“What’s the target?” asks his minion at the weapon controls. “The Universe!” he replies gleefully. “This might take a minute,” comes the confused but obedient reply.)

Finding the baddies and stopping them requires a trans-galactic adventure that includes exploring a mad space-scientist’s laboratory, brawling at a seedy cantina (“This is my neighborhood bar!” cries a suddenly blaster-wounded John Mac Cole in a furry suit), and an epic battle between cardboard ships and space invaders. Along the way, our heroines are joined by an eccentric robot, an amusingly unhelpful Space Boy, and a sexy space goose.

Created by Peter Lincoln Rusk and Justin Spooner, Space Girl harks back to the era of Hardware Wars and Spaceballs: shambling take-offs on Star Wars and its kin, with droids whose panels keep falling off and evildoers who bump their headgear every time they try to walk through a door. What makes Space Girl feel fun in 2015 is not just that it’s an antidote to CGI bombast; it’s the loving (or at least liking-a-lot) care put into its witty script (by Rusk), its set (by Spooner) that looks like it’s constantly on the verge of collapsing, and its soundtrack—with music and effects performed live by Kalen Keir and Skyler Nowinski.

Space Girl is Bedlam at its best, full of heart and humor and completely purged of any pretensions. Dare I say, it’s this spring’s must-see sci-fi spectacular.

Jay Gabler