by Matt Ritchey
Many one-person shows about famous personages involve an actor doing an impression of said personage talking directly to the audience about their life, giving us a biography with dramatic flair. Martians – An Evening with Ray Bradbury is worlds away from this formula. And it’s beautiful.
A throwback sci-fi tone begins immediately with a creepy and entrancing theramin-like synthesizer being played by a gold-faced being. On the other side of the stage is Bradbury’s desk and bookcase, crammed with images and knick knacks from movies and stories of yesteryear.
Video and images play throughout, adding to the vibe of the imagined future. But this is not a “modern” futuristic world imagined by WETA Workshop, these are the throwback futuristic images from the 1950’s and 60’s come to life. The projection design by Gabrieal Griego and the production design by director Jeff Rack beautifully capture Bradbury’s worlds.
Once Bradbury arrives, we discover that we won’t be listening to a fourth-wall chronology of his life, but instead engaged in a lecture on writing, imagination, and what it means to be human. (Much of the dialogue is taken from Bradbury’s own words, both from interviews and from his books on writing.)
Charlie Mount plays Bradbury, and while he wears the iconic white suit, black glasses, and has the shock of white hair, Mount never does an impression of the author. Rather, he embodies what the author stood for and desired. Because Martians isn’t about the life of Ray Bradbury, it’s about how Ray Bradbury viewed life.
Mount gives us a Bradbury eager to not only teach us, but to solve some problems. “Write, don’t think,” he says, and does so as we watch his characters come to life on stage. Characters from The Strawberry Window, The Blue Bottle, The Messiah, and Night Call, Collect appear and we experience their stories in the same moment that their writer does. It’s a fascinating and ingenious device that creators Mount and Rack use to give Bradbury real stakes – he’s trying to say something through his stories, but how can he finish them until he knows what that is?
The short stories not only do a wonderful job of clarifying the themes and ideas that Bradbury wrestles with in the show, but are all well-acted, well-designed independent pieces that would work as stand-alones in a short play festival, a testament not only to Bradbury’s beautiful writing, but to the craftsmanship of director Jeff Rack. The elements of Bradbury’s one-man dilemma and of the short Martian plays blend perfectly, never losing a beat.
Martians is a fun, informative, and inspiring show that urges you to push father, do more, be better, and to live forever.
Suitable for family audiences, ages 8 to adult
Created and written by Charlie Mount and Jeff G. Rack. Directed by Jeff G. Rack.
Performed and adapted by permission of Don Congdon Associates, Inc.
Presented by Arcane Theatreworks and Whitefire Theatre.
September 7 – November 2, 2018, Fridays at 8:00pm; November 10, Saturday, at 8:00 pm
The Whitefire Theatre 13500 Ventura Blvd. (at Sunnyslope) Sherman Oaks, CA 91423
(Valet parking available at Augustine Wine Bar, ½ block East of theatre – fee charged.)