‘Martians’ a good time you might not remember

The 1964 Grade Z movie "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians" is ripe for parody, in an Ed Wood sort of way. After all, it was the film debut of that legendary thing Pia Zadora.

Off Strip Productions and Onyx Theatre have come up with "Santa Claus vs. The Martians," and it’s what you’d expect. Some sharp campy humor, some misfires. Some actors who understand how to play camp, some who don’t.

I enjoyed it as a late evening of easy, harmless laughs. I had trouble remembering it the morning after, but I had a good time.

Adapter/director John Tomasello maintains the basic plot. Martian children are starting to get bored, vegging out in front of the television, watching Earth programs. Council chief Kimar (Glenn Heath) makes the decision to kidnap Santa (the very Santa-like Gabriel Gentile) so that he might bring Kimar’s planet some needed humor.

Tomasello’s smartest move here was giving the show a 1950s sci-fi movie look. He and Russell Slouffman’s design feels built on aluminum foil. The Martians are dressed in green with camouflage makeup and what look like cereal bowls as hard hats, topped by antennas. There’s even a "The Day the Earth Stood Still" robot who talks.

Matthew Antonizick projects needed slyness and anger as a villain bent on sabotaging fellow crew members. Ben Tucker, a 20-something looking actor, plays a wholesome 10-year-old Earthling who is kidnapped with his sister (Nicole Unger). Tucker proves a perfect counterpoint to the all the craziness going on around him. He comes across sane, kind, brave and loyal — just the kind of person the Martians would love to cultivate.

Heath is the show’s rock as Kimar, a no-nonsense, sometimes brutal man who nonetheless tries hard to do the right thing.

The theater provides prop "tomatoes" to throw at the actors during the dumb moments, or when you want to boo the characters. You’ll have a lot more fun if you use them often.

Anthony Del Valle can be reached at vegastheaterchat @aol.com. You can write him c/o Las Vegas Review-Journal, P.O. Box 70, Las Vegas, NV 89125.

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