Most of us grew up knowing who Ray Bradbury was through his books.
His short stories were, for those of us with a penchant for sci-fi and fantasy, a touchstone for a hopefully future, with a liberal smattering of darkness and a tragic, twisted yet warmly ironic humor.
There is surely a copy of his "The Martian Chronicles" in every well-read bookcase. Mine is worn and dog eared, lightly stained by English rain and chocolate and bleached by flashlights under bedcovers. Ray Bradbury is an American writer whose influence can be seen in every "Star Wars," "Black Mirror" and high-concept fantasy film. But although we revere his words and marvel at his dreams, have any of us considered how he conjured up these disparate worlds and the lonely souls to populate them?
Melissa Lugo (l.), Michael Perl, Charlie Mount. Photo credit: Eric Keitel.
“Martians, an evening with Ray Bradbury” is based in part on his short stories "The Strawberry Window," "The Blue Bottle," "The Messiah" and "Night Call." We meet the master storyteller and he guides us through his life. From his writing room, surrounded by his inspirational collections and memorabilia, he gives us insight into how he writes and why. We find clues to the impetus of his ideas, the beginnings of his worlds and the beginnings of his longing for humans to be better, to push themselves into the outer reaches of the universe and to take the best of our humanity and make new Edens. While he rummages around in his mind, full to bursting with ideas, the characters and stories he creates appear on stage. In this way, he literally shows us how he writes. Inventing the characters, giving them purpose and then retiring them while he follows yet another train of thought with yet another character and story. As he creates them they all twist and turn together in an endless and seemingly random play on his work. In the end, what seems random is of course not and everything reflects back on everything else, echos returning to their past, future and forever. It’s all very Ray Bradbury.
Paul Gunning (l.), Joe Seely, Robert Paterno. Photo credit: Eric Keitel.
What a truly fascinating and brilliant way to dramatize the mind of one of the most iconic writers of our generation. Charlie Mount, who also co-wrote this lovely play, is Ray Bradbury. He portrays the man as spirited, passionate and playfully bold. His characters evolve before our eyes and their stories become the play, Mars the biggest character of all.
I really didn’t know exactly what to expect from this play. Is it a reading? Is it a biography? Is it a performance of his work on stage? Well, it’s all of that really. It’s also a wonderful and totally riveting physical enactment of how imagination works. How a mind makes something beautiful and meaningful out of thin air and why telling each other stories is the oldest and most important form of communication on our world, and probably on many others, and a way to belong to each other in a real and meaningful way. What are we without our stories?
If you love science fiction, the weird, the wonderful and the fantastical, then you will adore this play. Take it from someone who always looks to the stars with longing and a thirst for adventure, this play is something very, very special. In short, I absolutely loved it…I’m still smiling. Bravo!
As Ray Bradbury said: “Stuff your eyes with wonder, he said, live as if you'd drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It's more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.”
Running September 7 - November 10, Fridays at 8PM (No show Nov 9), Saturday at 8PM on November 10 only.
The Whitefire Theatre, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, 91423
Charlie Mount, John T. Cogan, Paul Gunning, Eric Keitel, Melissa Lugo, Michael Perl, Richard Mooney, Donald Moss, Robert Paterno and Joe Seely, Tor Brown
Production Design - Jeff G. Rack
Sound design - Joseph “Sloe” Slawinski
Video design - Gabrieal Griego
Stage Manager - Brandon Loeser
Lighting Design - Derrick McDaniel
Martian Wig & Hair - Judi Lewin
Costume Contruction - Christine Zirbel
Fight Choreography - William Hill
Strawberry Window Construction - Amanda Sauter
Prop Guns - McKenzie Eckels