Space Kumite

I was bummed when I got sick the opening weekend of Space Kümite and no other BITR Sister could cover the show.  But the Baltimore Rock Opera Society (BROS) didn’t need our help.  They sold out every show all by themselves. Why write a review then?  ‘Cause I wanted to showcase their bad-assery. Get over it and read the damn thing!  Or not. I don’t care. The BROS held Space Kümite at Peabody Heights Brewing Company.  Genius! Get the patrons drunk! I ran into the BROS Executive Director Aran Keating on my way aboard the spaceship and he said something that helped immensely with my pending adventure: “Go with it!” And go with it I did.  I’ve seen a few BROS shows over the years and I thought I knew what to expect. I was dead wrong on this one kids. What I got was an out of this world interactive and devised experience.

As the audience entered, we were introduced to a couple of Artificial Intelligence (AI) video graphics who gave us a general orientation of the ship and what we would be witnessing.  Basic storyline: A bunch of people hopped onto the spaceship “The Illian” in an attempt to find a new world. After spending years on the ship and no new planet in sight, the ship inhabitants started to bump heads and separate into factions that had different views on what to do next: “The Finders” wanted to keep moving forward to find a new planet, “the Loopers” wanted to stay where they are and Reduce/Reuse/Recycle, and “the Keepers” wanted to go the fuck back to Earth.  All this in-fighting got out of hand over the years so the factions created a once a year event where each group could settle their beef in the Dodecahedragon fighting ring. The official fighting event is known formally as “The Kümite”.

I felt like I had entered a unique world the moment I entered the theater space.  During the pre-show members from each of the factions talked with me and my date and tried to get us to like them. I’m an actor and this type of full immersion can be exhausting, but they didn’t let up throughout the pre-show, the actual show, or the two intermissions. Damn. These motherfuckers committed to their characters. They never broke!  They wanted my precious tokens, given out every time a patron purchased food, drinks or merch, which were used to show how much you loved or hated a faction. Actors Smoot Michaels (Metron), Chris DiGregorio (Bobbi), Rob Bradley (Bix), Mel Tillery (Nova), Marvin Roxas (Blaine) and Beren Malley (Mars) had exhausting characterizations that were both individual and collective as a faction. Their energy was palpable and I couldn’t help but smile the entire show.  Special shout out to actors Lauren Brown (“Looper” Algie), Carly Pursley (“Keeper” Quasar) and Flynn Harne (“Finder” Brett) for having the most unique, committed, and outrageous characters in this production. Lastly, Izaak Michael as the Host was a triple F: fun, flashy and flirty. He was a vision in silver attire, heels and extravagance! Well done!

Space Kümite had a lot going on in the space.  Sometimes I was overwhelmed with all of the sights and sounds that I didn’t always know where to pay attention.  Maybe I had too many beers. The set consisted of a small platform at the center of the room, a mounted Dodecahedragon “ring” with harnesses for the fighting, mounted TVs overhead, and side platforms for team huddles.  Light Designer Chris Allen and LIT Lead Alan Schnittman created ambiance with rope lights that changed color for each faction. The overall lighting was dramatic, colorful and energetic. The TVs played color commentary by the video AIs as live digital puppets.  AI (Digital Puppetry) designer team of Anna Platis, Eric Church and Chris Uehlinger created characters that were pretty rad. Chris Uehlinger, Jordan Cahoon and Eric Church were fun to watch as the actual puppeteers. I especially liked the sassy Looper AI. I’m not sure the audience picked up that the AIs were live puppets, but I got it.  I’m high tech and shit. As for the music, what happens when you have intense feelings and don’t have the words to express it? Duh! You sing! That’s what you do in a fucking musical friends. My favorite song was the song “We got beef” sung by the Finders gang. Musical Designer/composer/arranger John Roman created a space odyssey of sound and lyrics.  The lyrics were easy and conveyed emotion with that 80s style: heart with a side of cheese. The Bio-Organic Rock-n-Roll Generator band played music that was upbeat, poppy, and a little heavy. It was music you could pump a fist to.

Costume designer Macy Peterman created costumes in appropriate faction colors that were unique to each faction and individualized for each member’s personality. The costumes were makeshift and showcased a mix of materials as if the characters sourced them while on the spaceship.  What else can I talk about? Oh snap! The Fights! The fights were in the zero gravity Dodecahedragon. How the hell do you simulate zero gravity in a brewery? Rope harnesses with actors fighting in slow-motion. Genius. Aerial expert Jessie Delaplaine and fight choreographer Ali McIntosh did their thing by choreographing simple, entertaining and safe fights.  I couldn’t wait for the faction fighters to kill each other in the Dodechedragon designed with love by Phil Palazola. The world building and theme were on point from beginning to end of Space Kümite.  I had to remind myself that this was a devised piece and not the usual scripted BROS show as the actors shifted seamlessly into each scene.

The story was a little thin and the beef was raised with the slightest provocation just like my favorite 80s movies.  I dug it. Thanks co-writers Dave K and Kim Le. Lastly, Director Kateri Pelton kept everything right and tight in this devised piece.  The director’s overall vision, the lighting, the mood and the willingness to push the actors in their characters created a once in a lifetime theatrical experience.

Space Kümite was fire!  I couldn’t help but get caught up in the action. I placed bets on the fights with my tokens, I booed when a faction cheated during a fight, I chanted my favorite factions 3 word slogan and I switched allegiances when I felt like it. I had a ball! This was WWE for musical theater nerds.  The audience decided who won each fight. We were in power. The one negative that I had with the show was the length. Even though I was having a lot of fun, a show with 2 intermissions was a little much. Also there were two final fights which dragged the action longer than necessary. I was in it all the way for the first final fight.  I was yelling, cheering and chanting full on. But by the second one I was over it. Overall, Space Kümite was an enjoyable, interactive, bad bitch kind of show.  I wish all theater was this entertaining.

SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO?  I’d say go but every show sold out and it is now over.  Snooze in space, you lose in space. You missed a kick ass, weird, and excitement filled show. Sorry, not sorry.  The BROS delivered with a world unlike no other that oozed creativity in a new and different way. Guess you can teach an old BRO new tricks! Was Space Kümite silly af? Yes, but I leaned into the silly and was thoroughly entertained.  Slipping on that Peabody Heights beer helped too. It sucks you missed out on the mayhem in space, but I heard a rumor that the BROS might be bringing this show back.  Keep your eyes on social media because you don’t want to miss this unique experience. Take up Space motherfucka! —Z

Running time two hours and thirty minutes.  Run is over, but watch the BROS page- it might be flying into another brewery near you in the future!

Running time:  about 2 hours and 30 mins

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