Mankind’s Last Hope, Virago Theatre’s burlesque futuristic sitcom, through this weekend at Alameda’s Rhythmix Cultural Center near the Park Street Bridge, is the perfect antidote to the overcommercialization of Halloween.
It has crazy costumes and makeup, exuberant alien bosses and eccentric, downtrodden human “craft workers,” with live and taped spoof commercials (some featuring Alameda businesses) and a general air of putting on issues serious and trivial.
Directed by Robert Lundy-Paine, this original staged teleplay, written by Dan Brodnitz and Jeff Green, includes credits framing each of the three episodes and a loopy theme song about how The Horde invades earth in 2040, most humans dying, the rest enslaved to whittle or fashion inspirational greeting cards for Earth Industries in a New Galactic Economic Order.
It makes Star Trek seem like the future on Prozak. But there is a human underground, somewhere, a resistance to the overly friendly, menacing but too jocular, insect-like task masters of The Horde, more grotesquely human than their sadsack slave charges, who whittle away with switchblades or spellcheck, always afraid of being eaten.
With the enormous alien femininity of Jiggy (Angela Dant), Horde supervisor of a human work crew, and her turgid affair with the even more enormous (but never seen, though heard) “cool” Xanthor, splendidly deadpan Chloe Bronzan is introduced as “hairless monkey Bright Eyes,” nude and bound in straps, to be introduced into the crew, perhaps as breeding material.
But she comes out of solitary in The Box as take-charge Alex, cool herself in camouflage and suspiciously speaking Horde like a nonhuman. Soon, with the eating of crewleader Burt (Tony Jonick), she’s given the job of managing her hokey human confreres: buff but puerile Hank (Kenneth Sears), grim Spencer (James Colgan) with eyepatch and blade, and ditzy (but lovable) screw-up Wally (Alex Goldenberg), who’s been given a tail, then a third nipple, secreting poisonous milk, with which he hopes to poison Xanthor, in a misguided blow for human freedom.
But the proceedings are jovial as well as edgy, with a doo-wop number when Hank bemoans the demise of his balloon animal pet, beloved Snakey; a weird puppet show, to cheer the sentimental humans up and improve morale; and a very funny tango between Horde master Bongar (Linda-Ruth Cardozo) and unctuous human slave Wortle (Molly M. Holcomb) while scheming against his/her own kind. Hannah Gustaffson plays a young Hordette with humor and quizzical charm, presiding over The Box.
This kind of put-on demands good acting to rise above the kitsch it spoofs, and the ensemble proves up to it with Lundy-Paine’s direction. The comic timing is fine, and neither Sci-Fi freaks nor those indifferent to the planet’s imaginary fate(s) will be bored or displeased.
MANKIND’S LAST HOPE
Presented by Virago Theatre at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays through Nov. 4 at the Rhythmix Cultural Center, 2513 Blanding Ave., Alameda.