Jonathan Yukich’s new play “The Alien from Cincinnati,” directed by Noah Alexis Tuleja, is at IU’s Wells-Metz Theatre. It’s sometimes touching, occasionally thought provoking and often very funny. “The Alien from Cincinnati” tells the story of a Texas high school girl impregnated by an alien. Suddenly this obscure innocent, played affectingly by Sara Rebrovic, has something that a lot of people are interested in. A college professor, a gynecologist, an unscrupulous TV news reporter, and a couple of ex-prostitute convicts pursue her. Three of the libidinous Alien’s other conquests, one from the 1850s, a second from the 1920s and a third from the 1980s.
“The Alien from Cincinnati” has a very colorful cast and IU’s accomplished players clearly relished their parts. Andrew Birnie played the girl’s thoughtfully supportive father. Amy Linden began a bit shrilly, but warmed to her big role as Professor Slosh. It was nice to see Jonathan Drago, whose own drama “Playing the Bones” premiered in the same space last season, as the appropriately stiff and then grudgingly human Dr. Darwin. Mike Mauloff was thoroughly reprehensible as the grasping reporter Jack Scribe. The alien’s former ladies get to play themselves, a group of psychically synchronized waitresses and an equally neat group of garage mechanics. Amy Backes was touching as the antebellum Sugarbelle. The tough ‘20s flapper Daisy was played with flare by Rachel Simpson. Bernadette Jantas had just the right touch of dumb as his 80’s girl.
Jennifer Berg and Kacie Leblong were quite a pair as chained together at the ankles they worked a scam as Siamese nuns. To get a picture of the actual alien from “Alien from Cincinnati,” picture one of the ‘blue men’ with a more massive physique and a horn on his head. He was played with stiff dignity by Kenny Dellinger. Lauren McCarthy brought alternately charming and chilling effects to the role of his daughter.
The set design for “The Alien from Cincinnati, by Dathan Powell is a visual knockout. The white sidelines and the double yellow in the center of a road wind through the theatre to vanish in the distance of a large screen projection of a highway. I’d suggest at least a visit upstairs to the first balcony of the Wells-Metz to fully enjoy it. The road winds over and past a variety of stage spaces that are used creatively during “The Alien from Cincinnati.” The projection design by Laura Dowling also offered other realistic backdrops, signboards and visual exclamation points! Kristen Held was responsible for a varied and attractive set of costumes that made dramatic points all by themselves.
The IU production of Jonathan Yukich’s “The Alien from Cincinnati” is its premiere. At Monday evening’s performance the first act had good scenes with sharp funny writing, but they were distant, separate scenes, almost more of a character review than a play. Things warmed up in the second act. Director Noah Alexis Tuleja had both the overall flow and the individual scenes all working. The show came together for me and I felt a sense of intimacy. However the production lost focus as too many threads were brought together and there were a couple of points that I couldn’t follow. The mysticism surrounding déjà vu got a little overworked. In a late scene one character commenting on the birth of the alien baby had me looking around for a manger and the final melodramatic moments with the accidental suicide of the grown up baby was so gruesome that it just didn’t fit.
Now, there’s a lot of very clever writing in “The Alien from Cincinnati.” The plot is an interesting one, characters are a lot of fun to watch and Yukich has a wonderfully wild, theatrical imagination that is full of surprises. Monday night’s audience was small. That can be a bit intimidating, but it wouldn’t surprise me if a fuller house actually stopped the action for applause after some of the scenes.
The IU Theatre’s premiere production of Jonathan Yukich’s “The Alien from Cincinnati” plays each evening this week at eight and on Saturday there is an additional performance in a matinee at two.