Enjoyable, but not perfect
KC Fringe Festival
Kansas City Peep Shows' Jet Propulsion
I walked into Jet Propulsion not really knowing what to expect, but what I got was an entertaining and educational night of theatre. Playwright Pete Bakely informed us on the mostly forgotten life and achievements of Jack Parsons, while still appealing to our desire for a show.
Jack Parsons was played by the dynamic Matt Leonard who threw himself into the character with reckless abandonment. He not only had to deliver several long, passionate monologues, but also had to perform a pagan ritual to the goat god Pan. I was impressed to his dedication to the part; even the slightest sign of timidity would have made the dancing and chanting look silly, but he owned it. I was on my feet for him at the end of the performance.
The famous author, L. Ron Hubbard was played by a very charismatic Ryan Neal. He had double duty, playing character and narrator of sorts, and handled it well. He had some fantastic facial expressions that really fit the part. I felt a little sorry for Neal at times because he was blocked to carry around a guitar that he only strummed once or twice. He would sing when he was filling the audience in on plot points, but he never played along with it. He just held it. I often lost what he was saying because I was so wrapped in the thought of, "Why bother with a guitar at all?"
Jeremy Lillig (Aleister Crowly) and Virginia Hubbard (various characters) did well in their parts but didn't stand out in anyway either. I applaud them, however, for having to deal with an incredibly silly hand puppet (that resembled Dumbledore) and keeping a straight face. I don't have any idea why Bakely felt the need to write in a puppet as a character, rather than just using another actor. It did not fit with the rest of the show at all and I found myself just waiting for it to get off stage. I couldn't even tell you who the "character" was or how he was related to the plot.
Jet Propulsion was enjoyable and I learned a lot from it, but it wasn't perfect. I think if the playwright works out a few kinks and ditches the guitar and puppet it will really help the show. At this point in time though, Leonard and Neil are what make this show worth seeing. 3 out of 5 stars.