Here’s a quick test for you: if you start giggling when I tell you to imagine Captain Picard reading this review and shouting “There are FOUR AND A HALF stars!”, then Fireball XL is a must-see. If you can spot a Ming the Merciless pastiche at 50 paces, then Fireball XL is a must-see. If you have fond memories of astronaut puppets saving the galaxy, Fireball XL is a must-see. And if you’ve ever wondered why there wasn’t more Chekhov in space, or what the classic Next Gen episode “Darmok” would have looked like with more Shakespeare and Neil Simon references, then Lumina Studio Theatre’s Fireball XL should absolutely make your list of ‘must-see’ productions this Fringe.
For those of you who think that last paragraph was mostly gibberish, don’t worry: writer David Minton and Director Rich Porter have made Fireball XL such a spot-on parody of classic sci-fi that anyone who’s even heard the phrase “Beam me up, Scotty” should be able to laugh along. From the moment the show starts, the sets and costumes (by Jim Porter and Wendy Eck, respectively) make sure that you know classic Trek is heavily in the script’s sights. The cheesy projections on the main screen (courtesy of Ron Murphy and Dan Mellitz), including a short title sequence, also help set the mood. The plot, such as it is, is a fluffy excuse to send the crew out to explore strange new worlds. The boys-vs-girls theme leads to some weirdly regressive sexual politics in an otherwise fun show, and it’s the major speedbump in the production. The cast is uniformly good, but there are a few standouts: As Captain Prissy Thorn, Clare Lefebure is brashly pitch-perfect (Kirk by way of Janeway, for the geeks), while Sophie Cameron’s plucky android SKYP-EE is a brilliant combination of every robot sidekick you’ve alternately wanted to hug and shoot out of the airlock.
At the end of the day, the most important thing I can tell you about Fireball XL is that the audience was laughing uproariously from one end of the show to the other. And with laughter being the best medicine, catching Fireball XL is a good way to make sure you live long and prosper.
Running Time: Fireball XL is 55 minutes long.