A Ray Bradbury Christmas Review

"The cosmos is one big theatre and it wants to be seen. Mankind was created as an audience. We are supposed to love, witness, and celebrate and send that love back out." This is one of the insights shared by Ray Bradbury, in person, in an intimate monologue following the short play entitled THE MESSIAH, one part of an evening called A RAY BRADBURY CHRISTMAS. The forty-minute lecture was full of unforgettable ideas about love and theatre, and, more interesting to Bradbury's fans, outer space.

Ray Bradbury

One need not be familiar with his work (but who isn't? Fahrenheit 451 is a literary classic in a world that views science fiction as a diminutive genre) to enjoy this evening. He's an intriguing man and, at 86 years old, has a better memory and sharper rapid-fire wit than a robo-elephant. He rolled on eloquently about his memories from his earliest (claiming with detail that he remembers being born!) on through to his writing influences. "I remember a week after being born, laying in my crib, having nightmares about being born."

His thoughts on space and man's place in it elucidate his work and why he continues to write what he does. "All of space is a church; it's a cathedral," he said, "Space isn't for teaching about, but to be preached about. It's a great religious experience." This could be a subtitle to the play that preceded the lecture. In the play, a expedition team from Earth lands on a planet disinterested in their arrival because the Messiah had been there just the day before. The ship's captain (Capt. Hart, played by Steven Robert Wollenberg) becomes furious and wants to find this person and prove him a fraud.

Georgan George and Nick Swartz

The play suffered for its brevity, leaving some underdeveloped elements. A young crew member (Nick Swarts as Lt. Martin) is immediately insubordinate to Hart without enough justification. Hart's fury and violent behavior is unprovoked and could have been built up better with only a few minutes of added script. The Messiah arriving one day prior may be a commentary about how differently another society might have received Jesus Christ, but that time frame is unbelievable to endear the people and perform the number of miracles he was supposed to have done in that day.

Nick Swartz, Georgan George and Tanya Mounsey

THE MESSIAH is an amalgamation with bits of Bradbury's MARTIAN CHRONICLES and other short stories. The play may seem more developed to readers of these stories. It might have worked better as a full-length play as the topic is just a bit too grandiose for a quick, cute staging.

The acting was professional. Patrick Skelton's performance as Lt. Martin's father helped the audience envision the space ship at lift off. There were vaudevillian interludes that stretched the evening with a few added laughs. They didn't match or contribute to the theme of the play and they set an amusing tone which doesn't seem to be what Bradbury was shooting for in the play. Their success may be in reminding us of the lightheartedness of the holiday season.

Patrick Skelton and Dale Manolakas

Bradbury's appearance is the reason the show was sold out and by far trumps anything else the evening brought. The other performances, while entertaining, served as an opening act to the memorable stories he told. He produces and attends many of the shows at Fremont Centre Theatre, providing a rare encounter with a literary superstar that makes any show easily recommendable.

A RAY BRADBURY CHRISTMAS runs for two more nights only, Dec. 9 and 16. They are nearly sold out already and will be packed both nights. If tickets can be had, you will have an experience not soon forgotten.

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