‘Robot Monster’—’50s Sci-Fi run Amok (Review)

I had such high hopes for this one.

Hollywood Fringe Festival 2017 image

As the nerdiest kid this side of the Rockies, I lived for the cheesy Sci-Fi that oozed out of the fifties like the blob outa a whiffle ball.  It Came from Outer Space, This Island Earth, The Crawling Eye; I lived for the low budget black and white terrors, a welcomed escape from the adult terrors of monthly “drop drills” at Hancock Park Elementary School and blueprints on the dining room table for that fallout shelter dad gave up on, after digging a four foot hole in the center of your sand box.

And one of the best menaces from outer space was Robot Monster, Phil Tucker’s $16,000 epic shot in four days in Bronson Canyon, where the doom from another world was a guy in a homemade ape suit wearing a fish bowl space helmet.

So, a musical based on this childhood rapture seemed a sure-fire contender…my mistake.

Granted it was preview night, but the pacing was glacier, the songs unexceptional, and flat performances from folks of proven talents like Don Margolin and Dana DeRuyck.

Only Andrew Villarreal as Roy, the goony chauvinist “hero” managed to rise above the muddle of middling.  (Played by George Nader in the film, 1954’s Golden Globe winner for “Most Promising Male Newcomer of the Year.”)

HOllywood Fringe 2017-Robot Monster

Rich Silverman’s “Robot Monster”

The glaring absurdities that abound in the original film were touched on but not exploited to their potential, and both Rich Silverman (Producer, Creator, etc.) nor Derek Long (Director, Voice of Ro-man) seemed to have relied on a drawing board concept to be humorous enough to carry the show… They were mistaken.

The musical heritage of the film is worth commenting on.  A young composer whose career was suffering due to his lack of cooperation with the House Un-American Activities Committee needed work desperately enough to knock off the score for the film.  The composer was Elmer Bernstein who would survive the blacklisting and go on to provide the music for such classics as The Magnificent Seven, The Ten Commandments and even for the Michael Jackson’s video, Thriller.

Silverman’s tunes do not achieve the hills and valleys, curves and spins that the score, of any solid musical, demands. There are moments, especially in the final song where one has a sense that he could be capable of effecting those features, but alas did not put in the fire or pour out the sweat, resulting in a lackadaisicalness that unfortunately hamstrings the entire show.

Perhaps the crashing set pieces, the crushing sluggishness, the fumbling lines, and exceeding the stated running time will be isolated to preview night.

But I’m not optimistic.

 ♦    ♦    ♦

Here’s a short peek of

Robot Monster the Musical


Sacred Fools Theatre
1076 Lillian Way
Los Angles, CA

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An award-winning L.A. playwright and rabble-rouser of note who has hoisted glasses with Orson Welles, been arrested on three continents and once beat up Charlie Manson. His first play, "Among the Vipers" was a semi-finalist in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition and was featured in the Carnegie-Mellon Showcase of New Plays. It was produced at the NPT Theater in Ashland, Oregon and Los Angeles’ celebrated Odyssey Ensemble Theatre. His following play, “The Little Boy Who Loved Monsters” was produced at The Hollywood Actors Theater, where he earned praise from the Los Angeles Times for his “…inordinately creative writing.” The play went on to numerous other productions including Berlin’s The Black Theatre under the direction of Rainer Fassbinder who wrote in his program notes of Kearney, “He is a skilled playwright, but more importantly he is a dangerous one.” Ernest Kearney has worked as literary manager or as dramaturge for among others The Hudson Theater Guild, Nova Diem and the Odyssey Ensemble Theatre, where he still serves on the play selection committee. He has been the recipient of two Dramalogue Awards and a finalist or semi-finalist, three times, in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition. His work has been performed by Michael Dunn, Sandra Tsing Loh, Jack Colvin and Billy Bob Thornton, and to date, either as playwright or director, he has upwards of a hundred and thirty productions under his belt, including a few at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater as puppeteer. Kearney remains focused on his writing, as well as living happily ever after with his lovely wife Marlene. His stage reviews and social essays can be found at TheTVolution.com and workingauthor.com. Follow him on Facebook.

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