Where Everyone's Gone Before 

Prairie Dog beams up with boisterous Space Trek

Anyone who knows me well is aware I have somewhat of a mild obsession with anything related to Star Trek. I'll come clean and admit I've been to my share of conventions, participated in a Trek trivia challenge onstage (gulp!), bought one of those cardboard cutouts of one of my favorite Trek characters (I won't 'fess up as to which one!), and once interviewed William Shatner (Captain Kirk) himself.

This much intimate knowledge and fondness of a particular subject matter can be both a help and hindrance when it comes to reviewing a play. While it is easier to follow the story, it means my expectations run high.

Happily, there are plenty of redeeming things to enjoy about Space Trek: The Wrath of Ron, the latest parody by those charmingly nutty Prairie Dog Productions players. This time around, frequent Prairie Dog performer Tate McCullough takes the helm as both writer and director, assembling a cast of mostly familiar faces for a journey Trek enthusiasts will recognize we've gone on many, many times before.

Loosely, the story takes an abridged crew from the original Star Trek to the planet of Amazamada to answer a distress call from its women-led society. There, the Enterprise ... er, I mean the Jefferson Starship ... encounters the villainous Ron Sa-Raak (Fredrick Scott, sporting a Khan-inspired mullet 'do) and sidekick Mr. Roboto (Drew Hopkins, costumed suspiciously like the Wizard of Oz's Tin Man), who are plotting to steal the planet's dilithium crystals.

As with most Prairie Dog shows, the plot itself is incidental to the jokes along the way. The best way to enjoy the evening is to kick back and keep your eyes and ears attuned for the next pratfall or improvised bit of dialogue.

Saturday's performance on opening weekend, while generating plenty of laughs, was bumpy at times as actors occasionally fumbled punch lines, allowing some jokes to trail off with too much pause. It sometimes appeared as if too much improvising might be going on as performers struggled to rediscover where they were in the script. This will no doubt smooth out in the weeks ahead as actors discover which jokes work and which don't.

What does work are the over-exaggerated portrayals of Trek favorites. Jeremy Olsen as Captain Smirk is clearly having a ball channeling William Shatner's often over-the-top Kirk, mixed in with a little Elvis. Olsen delights in tearing Smirk's shirt open during a crisis and often yelling Ron Sa-Raak's name for no apparent reason.

Rob Tromp, who looks uncannily like his alter ego DeForest Kelley, aka McCoy, does a nice turn as sardonic Doctor McPoi, while McCullough himself fills the shoes of the ship's sometimes-Scottish engineer Mr. Snot, who delights that his ship's engines can reach a Trek-world-impossible Warp 11. Aimee Nell Smith, her hair up in a towel, proves adept at handling a remote control and filing her nails as communications officer Lt. Ohyoohoo.

The best of the bunch is Christopher Yandell's hilarious take on everyone's favorite alien-Spock, here called Mr. Schlock. Yandell, sporting pointy ears and Spock's straight black 'do, somehow doesn't crack a smile during the shenanigans going on around him, even while getting in plenty of funny jabs at Tromp's McPoi. His best line, delivered deadpan, comes when the crew first meets the Amazamadan women: "I'm the smart one."

Scott, while delivering a great evildoer laugh, misfires somewhat in his characterization of Ron Sa-Raak, coming across more like a Cheech-and-Chong-inspired caricature rather than an exaggerated Ricardo Montalban. Angela DeRisio and Carly Latimore, along with Smith in a second role, vamp up things nicely as the Amazamadan women, particularly in one of the show's musical numbers, "We're Not Deprived," done to Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive."

Other comedic highlights include a tribute to The Jeffersons, visits by E.T. and Alf, a great space walk sequence and some welcome mood music courtesy of house band Joey November.

Space Trek: The Wrath of Ron

Written and directed by Tate McCullough

7:15 p.m. Friday & Saturday April 1 to 30,

2 p.m. Sunday April 17

Prairie Dog Productions

3820 Cassia St., Boise

More info/tickets: 336-7383 or TicketWeb

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