Revenge of the Space Pandas (or Binky Rudich and the Two-Speed Clock), WNEP Theater. This sci-fi fantasy about two 12-year-olds and a sheep hurtling through space to a panda-policed outer dimension called Crestview (they hoped the name would attract investors) is packed with wry grown-up humor but has enough people chasing around in animal suits to entertain kids. Or does it? David Mamet--best known for his films and Pulitzer-winning dramas--presents a colorful, easy-to-follow journey. The goal is to get home in time for lunch. The obstacle is an evil dictator who wants the sheep...to make a sweater. (Come on, it's a kids' show!) The threat: getting squashed by a contraption that smashes heads with giant pumpkins.
But the dialogue is skewed more toward adults, so the designers and actors must contribute most of the fancy. A few here offer full-blown, vibrant characters, particularly Brandon Bruce and Ron Kuzava as the dictator and his sidekick. But others--particularly pandas Beth O'Neill and Ivory Tiffin--leave physical and vocal possibilities unexplored. Also, given director Bob Wilson's technical background, the visual elements are surprisingly bland. For the WNEP folks, who conceived such sardonic works as Soiree Dada and Angry White Guy Reads the Paper, the leap into children's theater was no doubt challenging. Perhaps some time visiting Sesame Street might have broadened their perspective.