The live-action graphic novel “The Intergalactic Nemesis Book One: Target Earth” created quite a stir in a sold-out performance a year ago at the University of Hawaii at Hilo Performing Arts Center.
The curtain rises on the second installment of the “Intergalactic” trilogy, “The Intergalactic Nemesis Book Two: Robot Planet Rising,” tonight at 7:30 p.m. at UHHPAC. Reserved seating tickets are $25 general, $20 discount and $12 UH-Hilo/HCC students and children, up to age 17. Tickets are available by calling the UHHPAC box office at 974-7310 or ordering online at http://artscenter.uhh.hawaii.edu.
The unique multimedia presentation features original comic-book artwork projected panel-by-panel on a two-story-high video screen while three actors voice all of the characters, one performer creates all of the sound effects, and a keyboardist performs the score, all live.
“Intergalactic” is the brainchild of Jason Neulander, an Austin, Texas, theater writer and director, who drew from “Star Wars,” radio dramas such as “War of the Worlds” plus the pulp fiction and movies of the 1930s and ’40s.
“I was heavily influenced by being of that primo age when ‘Star Wars’ came out,” Neulander told the Tribune-Herald last week. “I was 10 years old when ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ came out. ‘Robot Planet Rising’ is definitely in the spirit of ‘Empire.’ It’s self-contained. You don’t have to see the first ‘Intergalactic’ to get a complete experience with ‘Robot Planet Rising.’ It is a little darker, a little more complex and introduces you to some pretty great new characters. So I think we’ve achieved a really great middle chapter of a trilogy.”
As in the first installment, the year is 1933, and the heroine is Pulitzer-winning reporter Molly Sloan, who attempts to rescue robot emissary Elbee-Dee-Oh from deep space with help from her intrepid assistant, Timmy Mendez.
Danu Uribe is back as Molly Sloan, while Brock England is in the role of Timmy, and also voices Sloan’s former fiancé Dr. Lawrence Webster. The third actor is Christopher Lee Gibson, who like Uribe and England, voices a multitude of roles.
“We’ve introduced several new characters this time out,” Neulander said. “But again, you don’t need to have seen Book One to get a complete experience as a theatergoer.”
Foley artist Buzz Moran returns to do the sound effects, while 23-year-old keyboard wizard Kenny Redding Jr. creates music magic on the fly during the live stage performances.
The first book was illustrated by artist Tim Doyle, who has since gained international acclaim with a poster of President Barack Obama. This time, the story panels are illustrated by David Hutchison.
“David is a professional comic book illustrator so it’s really cool to be able to work with somebody who does that for a living,” Neulander said.
“Galactic” continues to tour with both Books One and Two. The third and final installment, titled “Twin Infinity,” will debut in Austin on Sept. 6. Neulander said that all three books will tour “into the foreseeable future.”
“I think we’ll be on the road for at least two years after we premiere the show in September. After that, we’ll see,” he said.
Live theater is an in-the-moment experience, one in which the human element can cause things to go awry — something every stage actor and director knows all too well.
“We were just in California for a performance of Book Two, and poor Chris Gibson, he jumped a little ahead in the script,” Neulander said. “In a regular play if you jump ahead, you can kind of leap back around and muddle your way out of it. Because it happens — that’s just the nature of the brain and memorization. But because of the slides it’s impossible to jump back gracefully. I was not at this performance but it got reported back to me.
“At the end of the day, it sounds like the audience didn’t know there was a problem, which speaks volumes about the professionalism of the folks on stage — especially Jessie Douglas, who runs the slides. She froze the image on the projector while jumping ahead on her laptop to catch up with the slides that the performers were on, while keeping her fingers crossed that nobody jumped back.
“There was only one critical plot point missed and somebody after the show said, ‘We just didn’t quite understand how X happened.’ And the cast members looked at each other and laughed.”
Email John Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.