Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Phoenix

Revenge of the Space Pandas
Brelby Theatre Company

Also see Gil's reviews of How to Succeed..., Cheyenne Jackson/Phoenix Symphony, Seminar, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, The Sound of Music

Emily Heald, Brian Maticic and David Magadan
Brelby Theatre Company, the husband and wife run theatre troupe in Glendale, seems to always manage to do a lot on a shoestring budget. Their latest offering, one of David Mamet's earliest plays, the comedy Revenge of the Space Pandas or Binky Rudich and the Two-Speed Clock, is receiving a charming, inspired production with a more than capable cast and clear, sure-footed direction. Those who are more familiar with Mamet's gritty, masculine focused, profanity laden endeavors like Glengarry Glen Ross are in for a shocking surprise, as Space Pandas is a family friendly comic romp with not a curse word within earshot. Even more shocking: Mamet has stated it is his favorite of his plays.

Twelve-year-old Binky is attempting to build a two-speed clock with his friends Vivian and Bob, who just happens to be a talking sheep. Binky believes there are two speeds in the universe, the fast moving earth speed and a much slower one. If he can get his clock to work correctly and move them into the slower time, it will allow them to spin off earth and easily travel out of their Chicago suburb, leaving Earth standing still behind them until they return. But he unwittingly sends the trio across the galaxy to a planet called Crestview, run by a tyrant named George, and patrolled by a bunch of pandas (hence the title). Can our heroes escape the evil clutches of George, who likes to drop giant pumpkins on people's heads and make it home in time for lunch? Full of wit, style and substance, the play has enough irreverent dialogue for adults but plenty of silly situations and humans dressed as animals so kids will enjoy it too.

Director Carolyn McBurney and her talented cast set just the right goofy tone to allow for plenty of scenery chewing, especially from Mia Passarella's hilarious George, but also manage to provide a huge dose of charm that gives the production a sweet sincerity. While David Magadan and Emily Heald have appropriate childlike expressions, over-reactive movements, and sweet voices to portray the youthful Binky and Vivian, and they are both successful, it is Brian Maticic as Bob the Sheep and Passarella as the tyrant George whom you won't soon forget. Maticic is like a classic Warner Brothers cartoon character come to life. He is absolutely charming, animated and completely lovable as the wise cracking Bob—just don't try to tell him that you're serving a casserole for lunch. Passarella's wide-eyed expressions, over the top behavior, and temper tantrums as the wool-obsessed George are priceless.

The set design is fairly plain but it does include some fun projections from media designer Fernando Perez, including a couple of moving projections that add a bit of wit to the moments when our heroes are on the run. Silly, creative costumes from Melissa Kamel add to the hilarity with some simple, yet inspired, animal designs.

The feeling you always seem to get at a Brelby production is one of dedication: a dedicated group of young artists and actors who want to put on a show to stretch their limits and expand their boundaries—and take the audience along on the journey with them. Brelby's Revenge of the Space Pandas does just that—it is a fun, silly romp across the galaxy and back with a talented director at the helm and some hilarious performances led by Maticic as a talking sheep you won't soon forget.

The Brelby Theatre Company production of Revenge of the Space Pandas or Binky Rudich and the Two-Speed Clock runs through November 8th, 2014, with performances at 6835 N 58th Avenue in Glendale. Tickets are available at or by phone at (623) 282-2781

Director: Carolyn McBurney
Asst. Director: Fernando Perez
Stage Manager: Melody Chrispen
Scenic Designers: Brian Maticic, Carolyn McBurney, Fernando Perez
Lighting Designer: Luke Gomez
Costume Designer: Melissa Kamel
Hair & Makeup Designers: Melody Chrispen, Davon Mahon
Sound Designer: April Rideout

Binky Rudich: David Magadan
Vivian Mooster: Emily Heald
Bob, a Sheep: Brian Maticic
Mrs. Rudich: Megan O'Connor
George Topaz: Mia Passarella
Buffy: Kaylah Kermode
Boots: Zachary Arnold
The Jester: Ben Cleaveland
The Retainer: Chavez Benally
The Executioner: Jesse Taggart
The Newscaster: Joe Simon
Edward Farpis: Ronald Bush

Photo: Fernando Perez

--Gil Benbrook

Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for Phoenix

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