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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

Visit to a Small Planet

Visit to a Small Planet
John Tweel and Bruce Alan Rauscher
In American Century Theater's production of Visit to a Small Planet, Bruce Alan Rauscher gives a sweet and antic performance as probably the most charming, likable extraterrestrial visitor any American family is likely to meet. This satiric fantasy by Gore Vidal had its Broadway debut in 1957, but its themes of militarization, mistrust, and possible world destruction have only become more timely in the subsequent decades.

Rauscher is Kreton, a well-spoken representative of a civilization far ahead of our own. His world has conquered the desire for either love or war, replacing passion with intellectual satisfaction, so he's decided to visit Manassas, Virginia—not far from the theater in Arlington—during the Battle of Bull Run (the 150th anniversary of which, coincidentally, falls during the run of this production). However, he goes slightly off course, landing in the right geographic area, but in the wrong year: 1958 in the rose garden of the Spelding family.

The head of the family, Roger Spelding (Steve Lebens), is a television commentator and a bit of a blowhard; his wife Reba (Kelly Cronenberg) is very concerned about appearances; and college-age daughter Ellen (Megan Graves) is carrying on a romance with the sweet farmer next door (Noah Bird). Also in the house is family friend General Tom Powers (John Tweel), a pompous fellow whom the Pentagon has placed in charge of examining the possible alien invasion. And there's Rosemary the cat, who becomes Kreton's best friend in the house.

Under the guidance of director Rip Claassen, Rauscher bubbles with enthusiasm, reveling in the smallest things (from sitting in a swivel chair to smelling bacon) like a large child with an elaborate new toy. His facial expressions alone are delightful to watch. Tweel is amusing as a military man in over his head—before the current situation, he was in charge of the logistics of Army laundry—and Lebens is convincingly insincere as a broadcast personality who puts on a down-home accent when he's on the air. Graves sparkles as a young woman who discovers powers in herself she never suspected.

Scenic designer Noel Greer and costume designer Rosalie Ferris have done solid work here, but Micah Stromberg's lighting design and Ed Moser's sound design really bring the setting to life.

American Century Theater
Visit to a Small Planet
July 8th - August 6th
By Gore Vidal
Gen. Tom Powers: John Tweel
Roger Spelding: Steve Lebens
Reba Spelding: Kelly Cronenberg
Ellen Spelding: Megan Graves
Conrad Mayberry: Noah Bird
Kreton: Bruce Alan Rauscher
Aide: Brendan A. Haley
Technician 1: Kecia A. Campbell
Technician 2: Peter Louis Johnson
Delton 4: Tamra Lynn Testerman
Directed by Rip Claassen
Gunston Theatre II, 2700 S. Lang St.
Arlington, VA 22206
Ticket Information: www.americancentury.org


Photo: Dennis Deloria


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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