“Jet Propulsion”, written by Pete Bakely; produced by Kansas City Peep Shows (part of the KC Fringe Festival): seen July 29, 2011
In the program for “Jet Propulsion”, written by my friend (as well as KC Stage December spotlight and Stage Savvy podcast episode 3 guest) Pete Bakely, it’s mentioned that this play is still in progress. And for better or for worse, it definitely feels like it still needs some work, but it’s got some major potential.
It’s the story of Jack Parsons, inventor of rocket fuel, played by Matt Leonard, and his relationship with L. Ron Hubbard (Ryan Neal). There’s also some stuff about how the two of them helped summon the beast of Babylon (Virginia Hubbard, if I understood the plot correctly) from a ritual from Aleister Crowly (Jeremy Lillig).
But it’s not an exact telling of the story. It’s set up as a vaudeville act between the two, with Neal dressed in circus gear and Lillig, as Crowly, doing ventriloquism. It’s an intriguing show that I still need to digest fully, and am still not quite sure what it was all about. I’m not sure the combination really worked for me, but don’t know how it would have gone had I seen it at a different time and place (i.e., that it wasn’t my 16th show of the Fringe and that it wasn’t an late evening performance).
Leonard does angry real well, as I expected having last seen him in She&Her’s The Pillowman. But he never seemed to grow from that. Neal’s Hubbard came across as trying too hard, but I don’t know how much was to how the character was written, the direction (by Philip Blue Owl Hooser), or Neal’s interpretation.
It was almost like a summary of all the other shows I had seen. It was based on historical events with a paranormal aspect, much like “Hexing Hitler”; it had the history and magic of “Mister Gremory’s Cabinet of Curiosities”; it had the highbrow smarts of “Most Extreme Ocean Adventure” and “Camelot is Crumbling”; and had the overplaying of humor as in the Holy Cow! Improv and the Bottoms Up Sketch Comedy – with a little bit of the scientific humor of “Scientist Turned Comedian”.
“I’m not done yet”, says Leonard – and it’s true. The show has a good foundation, and has a lot of good in it. It’s just not there yet. I hope to see a further version of it – preferably when I haven’t been overloaded.
The 2011 KC Fringe Festival is over, but knowing Pete, there’s a future restaging of this in the future.
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