Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

September 4, 2018

REVIEW: Chester Theatre Company, The Aliens

Chester Theatre Company, Chester, MA
through August 19, 2018
by Mary Fernandez-Sierra

In his curtain speech before the show, CT’s Producing Artistic Director Daniel Elihu Kramer (also the production’s Director) suggests that the audience may need to keep an open mind during the performance of this thought-provoking play. “The Aliens” is a story about remarkable people who don’t necessarily fit into “normal” parameters, and what befalls those who ask only that the world allow them to fit in as they choose.

The three actors in this fine production handle their roles sensitively and naturally; it is lovely to see performers skilled enough to express character through silence as well as dialogue. Each one creates a unique persona in their roles, and a camaraderie that bridges the differences between them.

Photo by Elizabeth Solaka
As writer Jasper, James Barry reveals a rough and roguish outside and poetry within. His reading of an original piece about his own life wanderings, as well as excerpts from the writings of Charles Bukowski, are inspired. Barry brings a wonderful Mad Hatter charm to his role, and palpable strength and devotion to his relationship with the more vulnerable KJ.

Irresistible charm, extraordinary gifts, and human frailty and complexity shine in the performance of Joel Ripka as KJ. This actor portrays a somewhat tragic figure with grace and often glee, especially when he sings. He never crosses the line which might make the character feeble; instead, his performance gives life and light to KJ, and credence to the affection which the others so clearly hold for him.

Some of the finest moments occur in Paul Pontrelli’s portrayal of Evan, a young man closer to the customary definition of normal, who is drawn into an unlikely friendship with the others. Pontrelli’s comic timing, combined with his ability to share raw emotion, tis a joy to behold. Winning and authentic, he is a perfect foil for the unusual duo he befriends.

Simple and effective costumes by Stella Schwartz reflect the characters beautifully, subtle lighting designed by Lara Dubin, stunning sets by designer Ed Check, on-point sound by Tom Shread and some wonderful original music by Michael Chernus, Patch Derragh and Erin Gann all add to the power and sweetness of this story.

Director Kramer allows the tale to unfold in quiet ways, giving the audience much more than an unusual theatre experience that can open minds; “The Aliens” is about opening hearts as well. With all its fine production elements, excellent performances and moving story line, this show does just that.

Note: “The Aliens” ended the outstanding Chester Theatre’s summer season. Due to unforeseen circumstances, this review could not be posted in a timely manner. However, it is important to inform our readers about regional productions, no matter what the date.