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EMA Review: Not From Around Here ** Still Hungry


New Works: An important process  

 

By Paul Atreides

Author, playwright, and Theatre critic at EatMoreArtVegas.com

 

Not From Around Here, by Jennifer Goff and Brian Scruggs, is Las Vegas Little Theatre’s (LVLT) 13th New Works Competition winner and is running now in the Fischer Black Box. It’s a true premier production for this light-hearted comedy.

 

The script, about aliens infiltrating everyday life on planet Earth to study the culture and “drop seeds” of technological advancements, is entertaining. Goff and Scruggs have made alien visitors fun again. The character names are well-chosen for the story arc as the play unfolds.

 

LVLT is to be highly commended for supplying this step in the process. It’s important for new plays to get this kind of recognition, but it’s also an opportunity for the authors to see what works and what might still need fine-tuning. Here, the script is good. The downfall is the flawed direction.

 

If the New Works Competition's extended purpose is to utilize new directors, a seasoned one should assist.

 

The playwrights have not been served well by putting a new play into the hands of such an inexperienced director. Kaleb Bustamante is a 2023 UNLV graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theatre Studies and one full-length production under his belt. That inexperience shows not only in the actors' performance choices but also in the technical errors of the director. As a result, the authors and actors have been let down.

 

In one scene in particular, Jane and George Smith (played by Kimberly Arnold and Matthew Antonizick, respectively) supposedly sneak around the Jones’ house, where everyone is sleeping, yet Arnold is yelling lines. Arnold spends a great deal of her dialogue over-projecting, and the director should have pulled that back.

 

In that same scene, when the Joneses wake, Bustamante has taken what could be a very funny cat-and-mouse situation and loses the focus with nonsensical blocking that doesn’t flow. In many other scenes, actors move to the edge of the performance area to deliver lines out to the audience rather than to the character(s) they’re supposed to be talking with. Bustamante also fell into the “line-up trap,” placing everyone in a straight line across the stage, instead of normal conversational groupings.

 

Corina Monoran plays Mrs. Crabtree, the neighborhood busybody, with a put-on vocal quality that very quickly becomes annoying. The character is supposed to be an old woman, yet Monoran comes across as anything but.

Perhaps due to instinct, Brian Diaz Alavez is much better than Greg Jones and Mandi Nieland as Judy Smith, the star-crossed-lover teens. Alavez has a great sense of timing and uses his ability for physical comedy to perfection. Nieland matches him in delivery, showing she’s reacting to each situation.

 

Several scene changes leave the audience in the dark for too long, and the playwrights could have deleted one with a few added lines of dialogue as the alien family ties the neighbors to chairs.

 

Props are a pet peeve, and the very obviously empty KFC bucket was a distraction. An audience doesn’t need to see fried chicken; they need to see the weight of its contents. Otherwise, the technical aspects are solid. While Skylar Doran’s overall sound design is good, portions of the alien transmissions are a bit too garbled to understand. Ginny Adams’ lighting is excellent, especially when the transmissions to the alien planet take place.

 

Still, this is an entertaining play, and I urge you to support the overall process of the competition. Go see it and help the playwrights along this journey.

 

What: Not From Around Here

When: 8 p.m. Friday - Saturday; 2 p.m. Sundays through May 26

            2 p.m. Saturday, May 18 and May 25

Where: Las Vegas Little Theatre – Fischer Black Box, 3920 Schiff Drive

Tickets: $20 (702-362-7996; www.lvlt.org)

Grade:  ** Still Hungry

Producer: Las Vegas Little Theatre; Director: Kaleb Bustamonte; Set Design: Chris Davies; Lighting Design: Ginny Adams; Sound design: Skylar Doran; Costume Design: Julie Horton; Stage Manager: Emma Tamashiro

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