Jerome Bixby is considered one of the most popular science fiction writers of the 20th century with many of our favorite Star Trek episodes under his belt. “The Man from Earth” was completed in 1998 just prior to his death and then adapted by Richard Schenkman. Cristela Carrizales takes on the direction of this unusual one act play. A long act, “The Man from Earth” is easily broken into two acts with an intermission and is well suited to the Ghostlight Theatre Club.
Fans of science fiction love the genre, because so many disciplines and issues can be discussed under the entertainment umbrella. Philosophy, religion and politics can be explored without offense, and of course, technology is often given a trial run in science fiction. “The Man from Earth” is a perfect example of tackling some difficult ideas and the cast of this production does a fine job of presentation under the guidance of Carrizales.
The play is set in a typical college town where several professors are gathered to conduct an impromptu goodbye party for a colleague who has suddenly decided to resign. The situation seems suspicious as the guest of honor; John is packing up his home as his colleagues descend for the goodbye party and interrogation. They will miss him and are curious as to his rather mysterious decision to leave. As the friendly questioning progresses, the history professor admits that he must reinvent his identity periodically to avoid questions about his graceful non-aging. He doesn’t age, he doesn’t die, and he has decided to clue this group in on the immortality he is blessed or cursed with. He started life 14,000 years ago as a caveman and has lived through all these changes at the permanent age of 35.
The first act gets off to a rather slow start as the actors seem a little ponderous in the characterizations, as if they were throwing a party for someone they didn’t like instead of the opposite. However, the script carries them through, and by the second act the controversial conversations are presented very convincingly.
Although his colleagues do not believe John’s story, they are fascinated and question him about many historical events as well as mankind’s philosophical and spiritual growth. Food for thought is presented to the audience without aggression or overt propagandizing. The lead role of John is handled well by Christopher Rodgers. His former colleagues are Art Professor, Edith, beautifully played by Sue Ellen Reiman, Rob May as the cautious but curious Archaeology Professor, with Todd Clark as Art, the colleague who is offended by John’s inappropriate joke, and Mike Waugh as Harry the Biology Professor who is not only curious, but supportive. Also joining the party is Dr. William Gruber, the Psychology Chair portrayed very well by Chris Crane. Sandy, another University Staff member is smitten with John, and is played nicely by Robyn Mitchell. Kayli Anne Warmker as the young, but reasonably intelligent student Linda, rounds out the attendees. Daniel Bays as the mover pops in to carry away some boxes John has packed and he handles his cameo role quite well.
While the timing is excellent, the initial sequence pacing is awkward, but soon rights itself with the concentrated efforts of the cast. Carrizales has done a good job in character development overall with the actors, and an excellent job of staging on the great set by Scott Hynes. Every science fiction fan should visit Ghostlight Theatre Club during the run of “The Man from Earth” as this show is not only a worthy theatrical experience; it is a worthy cultural experience.
Ghostlight Theatre Club is in the Paseo District of Oklahoma City at 3110 N. Walker and the “The Man from Earth” can be seen through November 5, 2011. Curtain is 8:00pm Friday and Saturday. Ticket information is online at ghostlightokc.com or call 405-286-9412.