Just Wasn't a Fan
KC Fringe Festival
It could have been because the subject was so removed from the everyday knowledge of the audience members. It also might have been because the actors didn't quite live up to the attempted-style of the show. Either way, Jet Propulsion was sort of just a miss on Monday, the 25th. It had its good moments; it even had its great moments. Generally speaking, though, most of the comedy flew way over the head of the audience – that is, if it even got past the front row.
Expectations were high going in – after all, Phillip Blue Owl Hooser was the director. However, soon enough the audience was seeing a little bit of a jumble of acting experience, very little to no melodrama experience, and unmotivated and forced blocking. A couple of the exits (all upstage) were not completely awkward – meaning the action was carried all the way offstage. But how comfortable can it be for an actor to separate the curtain-opening and drop the however-many inches down off the platform in an attempt to exit - all while visible to the audience? It was forgiven, but not ignored. The style of the show was described with these words in PR: "melodramatic." It managed to actually be that word a few fleeting times, but it mostly went from realism to melodrama to vaudeville to comedy to poetry performance to Greek-inspired and then back again. If the style was meant to confuse the audience, it was very successful.
The set and lights were minimal – as can be expected of any Fringe production. Hooser and his cast made good use of their cube – standing on it, sitting on it, and occasionally sexually molesting it. The props were adequate and useful, although admittedly, they were handled neither very smoothly or confidently by a majority of the actors. The costumes were a somewhat confusing issue throughout the play. It was often unclear why a character changed his or her complete outfit instead of just doing the whole "this costume piece represents this character" thing. Why did Marjorie come out in an all-sequin dress at the end? Any answer is as good as any other answer - given how poorly it was explained in this production.
The cast consists of the following: Marjorie, Hubbard, Crowley, and Jack (and also Willie if the count includes puppets). The actors playing Marjorie, Hubbard, and Crowley acted in multiple roles throughout the production – the actors started off rocky and nervous, but they ended in a much more confident manner. The opening speech, for example, given by the actor playing Hubbard, was half-performed – nerves and self-consciousness seemed to be a bit of an issue for the young man who was apparently supposed to be the most "melodramatic" of the entire play. He lacked the right amount of charm and confidence to open the show, but eventually, he latched onto his fellow actors' confidence and began to be a little bit more entertaining. The actress playing Marjorie and the actor playing Crowley played their parts well enough, although Crowley's affectation and speech abnormalities came and went – the word "vision" going back and forth between two different pronunciations, for example.
As confusing as certain aspects of this production were, it will not go unnoticed or unmentioned that Leonard definitely had the most appealing performance in this production as Jack Parsons, a hopeful and ambitious youth with a slightly scary dark side. He ran his hands through his hair and growled maybe a little too much, but ultimately, the production suddenly became interesting once Leonard started speaking more than one sentence at a time. His physicality and choreography during the chant was a little awkward for him, but it was, nonetheless, done full-out with no apologies. The speech after he tells Hubbard to leave is quite intriguing – the sing-song quality of his voice and dead-on intention made this scene the best in the play. It's only too bad the other actors did not match his intensity on this night because it was almost weird to see him going all-out in a production when the other actors only made it to about 75% most of the time.
It's not certain that this production is worth the $10 to go see it, but it's not certain that it isn't either. It seems as if this crew and cast had great potential, but somewhere along the way, ran out of the fuel necessary to give the audience, what sounded like, a very interesting story.