Wild Women of Planet Wongo lacks the verve of a true camp classic | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

Wild Women of Planet Wongo lacks the verve of a true camp classic 

The immersive theater experience never achieves liftoff.

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Michael Courier

Not Too Fancy Productions brings this musical comedy to Chicago after previous runs in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Written by Ben Budick, Steve Mackes, and Dave Ogrin, Wild Women of Planet Wongo takes up two spaces in the Chopin basement: a bar/lounge area where Wongotinis are served and game shows are played and a standing-room-only space where the plot plays out.

After a crash, astronauts Ric and Louie find themselves marooned on all-female Planet Wongo, known for its population of warrior wonder women. The men think they're in for some sexual gratification after years of space loneliness, but the women are secretly plotting to barbecue them at the next Wongo Woo-au. A variety of escape antics ensue, culminating in the discovery of a nearly fatal typo in Wongo's holy book.

While the script is an appropriate send-up of B movies past, this production falls short. The frequent shifting of attention between performance spaces and downtime for bathroom breaks and drinks don't allow the performance energy to build; they actually foster the opposite of the intended "immersive" experience. Additionally, the direction and cast performances lack the vitality necessary to create the world of Wongo and ensure the jokes get laughs. The actors' voices are capable and their improvised asides clever, but punchlines feel thrown away, without the campiness necessary for a truly successful parody. The same goes for the movement and dance numbers, which could be much bigger with even more audience interaction. After all, people need a warm-up if they're expected to participate in the postshow dance party.   v


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