Saturday, August 6, 2016

"The Ice Cream Sandwich Incident"

The Ice Cream Sandwich Incident
Barry Eitel

Becky Hirschfeld, Daniel Chung, Nora Doane, Adrian Deane & Paul Rodrigues
So what if the space ship’s captain decides to indulge in four ice cream sandwiches found in the hold’s freezer?  What’s the big deal?  Well, for the other three fake astronauts locked up together for a year in a simulated starship stuck somewhere in the middle of desert, it is enough to cause near mutiny ... or at least a vigorously danced “ballet duel,” one of the mediation techniques given the crew by Mission Control.  But the ice cream issue will just not go away; and it is only Month One of the yearlong confinement in close, metallic quarters where only one shower a week is permitted.  How the four crew members lick the problem (and eventually lick each other) is the subject of Faultline Theater’s latest world premiere parody, The Ice Cream Sandwich Incident by Barry Eitel.  Part spaceship soap opera and part reality show, The Ice Cream Sandwich Incident most resembles a series of Saturday Night Live sketches where some really work for lots of laughs, some fall flat, and all are more than just a bit bizarre.

Tugg is the good, ol’ boy captain and ice-cream culprit in charge of this ship of sorts, where the biggest concern seems to be cleaning the air filter that keeps getting invested by insects and critters – uh, by “space invaders.”  Paul Rodrigues plays the cocky captain with a big smile full of white ivories that flashes involuntarily and constantly as he barks commands, defends his hunger, or spends time in the ship’s “Emotion Chamber” (not unlike a confession closet in a Catholic church, but this one having lots of blinking lights and a corporate confessor listening somewhere in headquarters). 

Amy wants desperately to be a real astronaut with NASA and keeps questioning if this experiment by Cosmos 1 has any connection to the real thing (for which she only gets vague answers).  The fact that her Master’s thesis is about her invented “Muffy, the robotic family counselor” seems legit enough to her to make her a prime candidate.  But just to be sure, this ultimate pleaser soon learns to skew all her answers to corporate’s “how’s it going” assessment scales to at least an ‘8’out of ‘10,’ rather than at the ‘3’-‘5’ level of how she actually feels.  As Amy, Nora Doane is spastic in a perky sort of way except when she becomes the accuser of Tugg’s chocolate-covered transgression, and then she lets her indignant anger reign. She is also the perfect, fast-talking host to another of the ship’s mediation sessions, this one “Cosmos 1 Sunday,” a simulated talk show where she plunges a hair-brush microphone into fellow crew members’ faces while looking at an imaginary camera, asking probing questions. 

Called into the talk show as an expert is crew colleague, Ripp, who has the credentials of a minor in psychology at UC Davis and “came close to being certified.”  (Never mind that Ripp thinks aliens are leaving balled-up bits of tabs from Taco Blaster and are listening in to their every conversation.  He is as sane as they come, at least among this bunch.)  Daniel Chung low keys his Ripp with quiet, occasional inserts into the hubbub of his warring teammates, but his shell begins to crack as the topic of sex is breached on “Cosmos 1 Sunday,” leading to a whole new side of emotions expressed and experienced as the crew embarks in “Mission Virgin Freedom” to free him from his sheltered past.

Rounding out the crew is Jones, a PhD in geology who was looking for a place to stay after “ghosting her fiancé” and somehow landed this Cosmos 1 assignment.  Adrian Deane is somewhat standoffish and guarded as Jones with an eye of skepticism as to Amy’s credentials to be a real astronaut but also with an eye of erotic attraction to the Captain himself (and vice versa).

Popping into the ship from time to time and grilling the crew with questions and demands is the representative from Cosmos 1 Command Center, the all-in-white, dark-of-countenance May.  Intense in her persistent probes, cynical with snide remarks, and fully willing to do whatever she can to keep the mission going (even if it means making one of the crew into a “space secret captain”), Becky Hirschfeld is the parody of every corporate type who bursts in to snoop, startle, and scare the local worker bees into headquarters’ proscribed rules and wishes.

Carlos Aceves has created a duo-leveled starship with much tongue-in-cheek, with corrugated metal walls, plastic chairs seemingly from Walmart, the obligatory submarine-like door with multiple locks, and enough blinking lights to give the set of Lost in Space a run for its money.  His fantastical set is greatly aided by the props designed by Noah Kramer.  Adding to the laughs are the costumes of Wes Crain -- especially the elastic, tight-fitting space suit (that is apparently very itchy) with toy-like gadgets attached to it for punching in cosmic codes.  As director, James Nelson keeps the multiple scenes moving at cartoon-like speed, always with just enough pause to establish the next skit’s entrance.

In the end, there is no great message and not a lot of plot in Barry Eitel’s The Ice Cream Sandwich Incident, but there are a number of individual scenes that have enough farce and fun built into them to while away the evening without boredom setting in.  Faultline Theater has premiered stronger productions but can rest assured that this latest will not melt away without first delighting its audiences in its frozen frolic into fake space.

Rating: 3 E

The Ice Cream Sandwich Incident continues in Fautline Theater’s world premiere through August 27, 2016, playing Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. on the Second Stage of PianoFight, 144 Taylor Street, San Francisco.  Tickets are available online at

Graphics by Nick Flory; Photos by Clive Walker.

No comments:

Post a Comment