'Stations': The Coneheads on stage

August 11, 1994|By J. Wynn Rousuck | J. Wynn Rousuck,Sun Theater Critic

Critics see a lot of plays that appear to be from outer space, but Kimberley Lynne's "Completely Different Birthing Stations" really is.

At least, it's about outer space.

Currently at AXIS Theatre, this is Lynne's third script to be produced by the Baltimore Playwrights Festival, and it's easily her most bizarre. Sort of a combo-plate science fiction-mystery-comedy, it focuses on a woman named Caroline (Joan Weber) who has unknowingly been selected by space aliens to be the subject of an experiment called the Madonna Project.

All Caroline knows is that strange things have been happening to her lately. The apartment where she lives with her husband (Michael Papa) has been broken into several times, although nothing appears to have been stolen -- to the contrary, pills seem to have been added to her prescriptions. In addition, she's repeatedly been awakened by howling dogs she thinks are issuing an "all-dog alert" in the style of "101 Dalmations." She's also been having enormous cravings for sugar. And all of the authority figures in her life -- from her psychiatrist to the policeman who comes to investigate the break-ins -- look alike.

As the play continues, some of these things begin to seem connected -- in a wacky kind of way. The psychiatrist and the cop look alike because they're the same person -- an alien droid named Monoceros (Curtis R. Sisco). He and his sidekick, Procyon (Craig Copas), come from the dog star, Sirius (at least I think they do; like several other plot details, this wasn't completely clear). Monoceros and Procyon also consume mass quantities of sugar.

I've intentionally chosen the phrase "consume mass quantities" from "Saturday Night Live" Conehead sketches because much of "Completely Different Birthing Stations" has an "SNL" feel. In particular, Sisco's daffy-yet-serious portrayal of Monoceros is reminiscent of Dan Aykroyd's Beldar. Weber's Caroline is an excellent foil; she's a '90s-style career woman -- the soul of normalcy, increasingly frustrated by confrontations with the abnormal.

These performances are among the few satisfying elements of director Paul Sapp's production. The main difficulties, however, are in the script, not the production. Lynne, who is also a community theater actress, has shown some mastery of theatrical form and content in the past, but here she seems primarily to have created a long, drawn-out skit -- one that nearly reaches the breaking point in a tiresome restaurant scene in the second act.

Admittedly, Lynne does have a knack for writing funny lines. When Caroline informs her husband: "Sirius is the dog star," he replies: "Like Lassie?" But expanding a limited comedy sketch didn't work in last summer's "Coneheads" movie and it doesn't work here, either.

THEATER REVIEW

What: "Completely Different Birthing Stations"

Where: AXIS Theatre, 3600 Clipper Mill Road

When: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 7 p.m. Sundays; through Aug. 21

Tickets: $10

Call: (410) 243-5237

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