Fringe Review: 'Space'

click to enlarge 'Space' at the Orlando Fringe
'Space' at the Orlando Fringe
In Space no one can hear you scream, but they can hear you interrogate, humiliate and manipulate your fellow astronauts, according to this claustrophobic sci-fi thriller from writer-director Corey Volence, co-writer of 2013 Fringe hit Key of E. Unlike the spacey spoofs and parodies that have proliferated at this year's Fringe, Space is an original and deadly serious drama inspired by Sartre's No Exit and intellectual futurist flicks like 2001 and Solaris.
Hubris Theatre Company - Brooklyn, NY
Venue: Brown
Length: 60 Min
Price: $10 (Disc: MIL | STU | NASA Employees)
Rating: 18 & Up – Language, Mature Themes
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Space establishes its backstory through a series of videos interviews introducing the four crew members aboard the Novos corporation's Genesis IV long-range spaceship, en route to terraform and populate a new planet. The projections were slickly produced by Walter Lowe & Blackburst Entertainment, but are a little long-winded and ridiculous, reminding me of the XS Tech pre-show in Disney's old Alien Encounter

Commander Copeland (Chaz Krivan) is sitting in the captain's chair for this five-year mission, but from the first scene we realize he's less William Shatner or Patrick Stewart than Scott Bakula after one two many trips through the Quantum Leap accelerator. Copeland tries to kill Hightower (Trini Kirtsey), an engineer with troubled past; sexually harasses Novak (Brenna Arden), the ship's sunken-eyed suicidal bisexual physician; and practically twirls his mustache while menacing his estranged, pregnant wife, Science Officer Chesky (Ashleigh Ann Garner).

Borrowing liberally from the works of Ridley Scott, James Cameron and Stanley Kubrick, Volence's script is clearly a love-letter to 20th-century cinema, when characters could sit around speaking expansively without an action sequence in every reel. The bulk of the show consists of two-character combinations expounding upon their situation and conspiring against the other half of the cast. Each actor gets at least a couple of meaty monologues to chew into, thanks to an exposition-friendly "video diary" device, and all have moments to shine; the women acquit themselves especially well (particularly Arden), expressing a realistic range from depression to rage as they rail against their patriarchal predicament.

Space has a galaxy full of potential, with fine moment of performance and dialogue, grounded by stunning Moebius-esque sets and scenery designed by Imagineer Evan Miga (the opening scene's electrified EVA suit is a work of art). But because we join an ongoing story in its final hours, Copeland's descent into madness is nearly complete from the opening curtain, making it nearly impossible to identify or empathize with his character. (Stephen King had the same complaint about Jack Nicholson in Kubrick's The Shining.) The hour builds inexorably toward a climactic blow-up that is gory, gruesome and grotesque, but also entirely predictable and a bit unsatisfying. 

Despite many positive elements, the show's uneven pacing and tendency toward ominous, overindulgent speeches overstuffed with classical references sometimes felt clichéd and campy, in contrast to the production's insistently straight-faced tone. Volence's story could make a great novel, short film or episode of The Outer Limits, but on the Fringe stage it doesn't quite achieve its intended orbit.
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