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Meat & Potato Theatre Company: Aliens: The Puppet Musical

Late in the second act of Meat & Potato Theatre’s radically weird interpretation of James Cameron’s Aliens, a character dressed as Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling emerges from the shadows to provide exposition from scenes that can’t be re-created due to the show’s low budget. But he doesn’t give Tobin Atkinson, Marynell Hinton and company credit for the creativity inspired by those same limitations.

Working with composer Rob Hartman, Meat & Potato architects Atkinson and Hinton concoct a production that’s about 50 percent straightforward interpretation of the 1986 film—assuming by “straightforward” you mean having the Marines characters represented by hand puppets—and 50 percent sendup of science-fiction/fantasy fare from Star Wars to The Matrix, from The Terminator to Star Trek, from Futurama to Battlestar Galactica. And yes, there are musical numbers, ranging from hilariously sensitive “I want” ballads for Ripley (Rebecca Marcotte, pictured) and the cyborg to an operatic show-stopper for the alien queen.

As often happens in genre parodies, this Aliens occasionally mistakes mere references for actual jokes, assuming that recognition is enough to provide the punch line. But there’s an infectious energy to the performers’ commitment to turning puppets into real participants in the action, and a variety of inventive stagecraft employed, from shadow play to stilts to hand-operated “face-huggers.” The result is a show that’s both a send-up and a surprisingly respectful re-creation of everything people love about big-budget cinematic spectacles—even if there’s nothing remotely big about their own budget. (Scott Renshaw)

Date: May 24, 2012
Phone: 801-355-2787
Address: 138 W. Broadway, Salt Lake City, 84101
Where: Rose Wagner Center