A cult favorite TV show created in the ’80s, Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3) has left your screens and found its way to the DC stage for one weekend and one weekend only. The weird (I mean that as a sincere compliment) brainchild of Joel Hodgson, Mystery Science Theater 3000 Live: The Great Cheesy Movie Circus Tour at the National Theatre roots itself on the absurd by taking the “so bad it’s good” mantra to heart and running with it.
Centering on their bread-and-butter components of bad movie watching, the MST3 Live adaption also added a series of circus-related skits with its odd and lovable robots: Tom Servo, Crow T. Robot, and Gypsy. I found it to be much like a mash-up between the predecessors of the modern-day reaction video and meme that you see floating around the internet these days, with a dash of Rocky Horror Picture Show live.
It also reminded me of the original Doctor Who or Star Trek series, where camp and far-out themes or concepts let the imagination (and comedy there with it) run wild. The combination of these two opposite parts of the show did lead to slightly jarring pacing, popping back and forth from the whip-fast one-liners of the movie watching to the slow, oddball situational comedy of the circus skits, but all the MST3 signature moments and members were still there for the fans in the audience.
The one area that I wish they had played up more was the audience participation. For a TV show designed around “viewer heckling,” MST3 Live would have been a great opportunity to push the audience to robot to screen interaction more, in addition to the usual robots to movie bits. That being said, there were a lot of MST3 classically timed jokes and moments of groans all the way to burst of uncontrolled laughter. MST3 Live is filled with Syfy slapstick, sarcastic one-liners, and the random improv humor that can only be thought of off the top of your head.
The cast of characters making all of this ridiculous magic happen ranged from puppet masters to Broadway singers. Joel Hodgson naturally took center stage as the man in the red jumpsuit. Grant Baciocco and Nate Begle served as the show’s lead puppeteers, playing Crow. Yvonne Freese played the increasingly-flexible Gypsy, and a new character, Mega-Synthia, (a clone of both Pearl Forrester and Synthia from the original show). Emily Marsh took on several of the robot parts as well as playing the show’s rigger/maintenance woman “Crenshaw.” And Conor McGiffin joined the cast adding the song and (floating) dance elements to the production that made for a merry time.
A weird and wacky night of completely disconnected amusement, the Mystery Science Theater 3000 Live: The Great Cheesy Movie Circus Tour helps you forget about what is happening in the world or even what decade it is. Whether you’ve watched every episode or this is your first time, this MST3 Live tour brings chuckles, guffaws, groans, and head scratches, and takes you out of this world.
Running Time: 2 hours, including intermission.
Mystery Science Theater 3000 Live: The Great Cheesy Movie Circus Tour is playing through October 19, 2019, at the National Theatre – 1321 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, D.C. For tickets, call the box office at (800) 514-3849, or purchase them online.
Note: Recommended for ages 10 and up.