Couch Aliens vs. the False World

This show is pretty much the definition of light Fringe entertainment — it’s bright, and colorful, and wacky. There’s not a lot of in-depth character work here, because it’s not necessary. These are stock characters, and therefore we recognize them instantly: the gen-X slacker hero; his douchebag best friend; Ford Prefect (i.e. his nonplussed alien guide); the bratty ex-girlfriend. They’re sketched out for us in a few quick strokes, and that’s all we need.

Likewise with the sci-fi concepts introduced here: there’s a little quantum mechanics, and a nod to the whole “many-worlds” hypothesis; but it’s nothing too heady, and if you’ve ever seen an episode of “Star Trek” in your life you’ll catch up pretty quickly.

A few of the audience reviews seem to be indicating frustration at the fact that it introduces these concepts, but doesn’t really go any deeper. I’d argue that they’re missing the point, but in all fairness there’s a point at which the show invites this onto itself: when it reaches those few key moments in which we need that investment, we haven’t found it yet. When the protagonist heroically declares that he’s willing to put his own, and everyone else’s, lives at risk, in order to find his perfect world — we don’t really get why; and without getting that, he seems like kind of a jerk. The most egregious example is one secondary character suddenly blurting out her father’s recent death from cancer, which can’t help but feel like a bit of tacked-on pathos.

But that is missing the point — because the plot is largely an engine to deliver the dialogue, and the generally eccentric environment. This is a play about the setting, and the world, more than it’s about the ideas or the characters. So, yes, I do get the frustration of not being able to follow those through to their logical (or, really, any) conclusion; but that’s not what this play is about. It’s about the quirkiness; it’s about being able to sit in a darkened theatre and let this weirdness just kind of happen. And, yeah — I think if you’re prepared to accept this play on its own terms, you’ll have a great time.

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