Revenge of the Space Pandas, by David Mamet

We heard a truly intentionally awful version of the initial fanfare from Richard Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra.

I heard one of my young nieces would be starring in a David Mamet play, and that it was clean! You mean, the guy who wrote Glengarry Glen Ross, American Buffalo, and Sexual Perversity in Chicago, all of which I’ve seen in some form, had written a divinely silly, family-friendly, retro-sci-fi romp called “The Revenge of the Space Pandas or Binky Rudich and the Two-Speed Clock”?

Yup, back in 1978. The Bridge Street Theatre in Catskill, about 45 minutes south of Albany, is presenting eight performances of the play: “Binky Rudich, his friend Viv, and his almost human sheep Bob tinker with a two-speed clock…” They end up in “Crestview, Fourth World in the Goolagong System, ruled by George Topax and guarded by the Great Space Pandas.”

The theater is small with about 100 seats. My family drove down on Sunday, though I was severely jet-lagged. The last folks seated were a couple with four kids, in my row. I got up so they could sit down and the woman did, but the guy went into the previous row and lifted the kids over the chairs and then climbed over himself.

I liked The Revenge of the Space Pandas and its various actors quite a lot. The story was silly and absurd and quite possibly newly relevant. There was a point during a transitional scene where we heard a truly intentionally awful version of the initial fanfare from Richard Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra. Some boy in the audience asked, “Why is this funny?”, which generated its own laughter.

Here’s Steve Barnes’ review in the Albany Times Union. He rightly praises Wil Anderson as Binky, who “has the right cool-geek persona.” Also, “David Smilow is amusingly mercurial as the feckless ruler of the space-panda planet, whose punishment of choice is dropping an enormous pumpkin onto the heads of the doomed… Special kudos to Natalie Parker for her deadpan turn as the ukulele-strumming court jester. (Parker also wrote the jester’s songs.)”

Oh, that couple with the kids? She was Mary Stuart Masterson, star of Fried Green Tomatoes (1991) and Benny & Joon (1993) and a bunch of other stuff. She looked familiar, but I didn’t place her at the time. Her husband Jeremy Davidson is also an actor. They stayed afterward to praise the cast.

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