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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Live: The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy

Before The Hitchiker’s Guide To the Galaxy was in any other form, it was presented as a radio series. The What Exit? Theatre is performing three stories from the radio series! I was invited to the opening night performance.

Of all the forms H2G2 has taken on, the radio series has always been my favorite. There’s no image of Zaphod or Marvin can match those in my head, which comes from mood and feeling rather than lines and color.

All other re-creations of H2G2 haven’t been very good. I'm used to being disappointed as an H2G2 fan, and in fact, after this long, I would call myself a tired fan, in the same way that I’m just tired of Monty Python. Over the years friends who said “Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries” went from funny to clever to not funny to mildly annoying. “A ha ha ha ha,” I would say to such friends. “You put such a funny spin on it.”

So you can see, my expectations weren’t too high. I mean, would they use American voices for critical parts?

The lights went out and Journey of the Sorcerer played over the speaker. The actors walked on stage.

And the story began.

And it was pretty good!  The audio, the acting, even the accents! That’s the difference between a voice actor and, well, your buddy. One of the odd accent choices was the use of a US Southerner for Zaphod, which I think was based on a mix of Sam Rockwell’s portrayal in the movie and George Bush.

But here’s my one complaint of the show: One of the actors played his parts over the top. He read his lines as if to say “Hey everybody, this is a joke!” Yeesh,

OK, let it go.

Listening to the dialogue was like attending a Beatles concert: I knew the lyrics by heart. Well, mostly by heart. Like anything else committed to memory, I could mentally check out and check back in without missing any dialogue.

They performed three stories, but rather than performing the first three, they told the first, fourth and sixth. This meant they wouldn’t end on a cliffhanger, giving a conclusion to the evening’s show. But it also meant that Zaphod, Trillian and Marvin were not properly introduced.

Because they skipped episodes two and three, the emcee filled in the important parts of the plot. I wonder if the audience was able to keep up with the emcee’s pace, but of course I was able to keep up, and didn’t even need him to fill in the back story. Smug! But episode 2 is where we meet Zaphod, Trillian, Marvin and Eddie, so their introduction in episode 4 was jarring.

The emcee also used the in-between time to show clips from the movie and TV show to give a sense of two characters that do not get their due: Marvin, the Paranoid Android and the sperm whale. I used to repeat the whale’s dialog to my friend to our joint amusement.

Oh, hey, über-fan nit: they changed part of the sixth story! I doubt anyone else noticed. But I noticed! There was only one way to address this: confront the emcee.

The emcee was pleased I was a big fan of the show. I think he was hoping people like me would come. But I had to confront him about this plot change! Remember, fans, if you confront people about stuff like this, be polite. It’s the difference between being a fan and an a-hole. In his judgment it was better to use the storyline he chose because would be better as a live presentation. I disagree, but it’s his show.

By the way I’m certain they also omitted the fourth episode scene where The Book explains the consequences of Arthur saying “I seem to be having this tremendous difficulty with my lifestyle.”


Rob, let it go.

Everyone I spoke with enjoyed the show, even a friend who knew nothing about H2G2.

Seriously, this show was wonderful, and rekindled my interest in the radio series. I’m listening to episode 7 right now, and I look forward to seeing it again next week. What would it take to get them to perform the other nine episodes?

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