Flying Saucers on the Plains | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Flying Saucers on the Plains

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FLYING SAUCERS ON THE PLAINS, Rough Around the Edges Productions, at the Chopin Theatre. Well-intentioned but heavy-handed and sappy in its naivete, Gilbert Mandrake's 70-minute one-act aims to mock the self-destructive stupidity of racism. The improbable story revolves around a not-so-clever plot by African-American extraterrestrials to destroy our planet by means of our prejudices. If it did happen, it would never be as hokey as this.

A squabbling Chicago couple visit the wife's nasty relatives in Oklahoma, apparently a hotbed of xenophobia. In a pivotal scene that we never see, the husband is influenced by hovering UFOs to write "Flying Saucers on the Plains," a reactionary best-seller that preaches the gospel of segregation. Somehow his fascist ethic leads to nuclear war, and the extraterrestrials manage to exterminate yet another sick planet.

The plot has enough holes to sink ten Titanics. Thanks to some pretentious, unfocused video segments, we learn a lot we don't need to know about amazingly stupid characters who are never developed. The staging, by Cory Hinkle (who also plays the empty-hearted husband) and Sara Laudonia, is as jerky as the writing. Ayanna Caldwell has sly fun as a seemingly shape-shifting ET; Megan Armitage is solid as the uncomprehending wife; and Melissa Riemer brings tenderness to both an earthly and an alien mother. The rest of the cast are wasted in half-baked parts; in apparent revenge, they mumble their way through them.

--Lawrence Bommer

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