photo by Brian Gawne
From left, Mike Yarema, Janee Page, Jacob Brown, Heather Stricker and Jake Chapman aboard the Planetary Union Space Ship Excelsior.                  

There's a definite hippie vibe to the songs and choreography swaying through “Space Trek,” the summer show now playing at the eastside Gaslight Theatre. Melodies reminiscent of “Good Morning Starshine,” “Reach Out,” “Get Together” and “Put A Little Love In Your Heart” also recall the goofy times of William Shatner as Capt. Kirk on TV's iconic “Star Trek.”

Mike Yarema has that juicy role at the Gaslight, playing Capt. James E. Quick, officer in charge of the Planetary Union Space Ship Excelsior.

Quick's nemesis, also quite convincing, is the ungodly Voltaire, devoted to energetic evil, as played by Todd Thompson with high voltage hair and an intimidating costume.

Bringing radiant beauty to the Gaslight stage is Janee Page, all shimmering and silvery as Princess Serena Andromeda, the interplanetary Ruler of Mylanta. She just wants everybody to get along.

Well, you can be sure that won't happen,,,otherwise there wouldn't be a show.

Voltaire is the irrationally ambitious Ruler of Zantac. He wants to run everything, including Mylanta and the entire patent medicine universe. After all, Voltaire's base of operations is in the city of Kaopectate, near the pink plains of Pepto Bismol.

The Gaslight's audience regulars, who always feel like family, will get a kick out of Jake Chapman's performance as Mr. Sprock, the pointy-eared science officer. After Sprock gets “evilized” by Voltaire and his minions, he goes a little crazy – proving Chapman has the stage power to over-act right along with Gaslight's finest.

Speaking of the Gaslight's finest, one of the company's long-time favorites, Joe Cooper, makes a guest appearance as the Excelsior's chief engineer Lt. “Monty” Montgomery, a Scotsman rolling those Rs like he's got a million of them.

Adding twinkling ceiling lights and other unexpected stage effects, scenic designer Tom Benson uses the entire auditorium to create a sense of the vastness in outer space. Although it does help if you squint a little.

As for the plot, Voltaire wants the power. The Excelsior's crew has it. Voltair seizes it. The heroic men and women of Exelsior get it back.

The aftershow olio becomes a showcase for one of Cooper's most popular impersonations, the voluble Chuck Barris running “The Gong Show.” His contestants bring us more tunes of the period, such as “Disco Duck” and the super-sudsy theme from “Car Wash.”

But my personal favorite was Heather Stricker in an impressively horned helmet and Valkyrie Brunhilde outfit singing disco opera.

Space Trek” continues through August 25 with performances at various times Tuesdays through Sundays in the Gaslight Theatre, 7010 E. Broadway. Tickets (plus tax) are $22.95 adults; $20.95 students, seniors and military; $12.95 children age 2-12. Reservations are required. Call 520-886-9428 or visit the Gaslight box office, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. daily.

photo by Ryan Fagan
From left, Bree Boyd, Keith Wick and Rhonda Hallquist build up the tension at Live Theatre Workshop in "Appropriate."

Live Theatre Workshop is taking a deep dive into serious theater with a blistering production of “Appropriate" written by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins.

Here on the threshold of summer, traditionally a time of light comedy and entertainment, comes theatrical intensity propelled by a string of exceptional performances.

Glen Coffman as director has assembled a strong cast of LTW favorites and added a few new faces, all to leave each audience member a little wobble-eyed in rethinking its own family experiences.

Dysfunctional families have always been a mainstay of playwright inspiration, a lens through which are projected society's larger problems. Jacobs-Jenkins begins structuring his stage family with Toni (Rhonda Hallquist) and her younger brothers Franz/Frank (Cliff Madison), the wayward one, and Bo (Keith Wick), the New York businessman.

It was their deceased father Ray who had much earlier moved everyone from Washington DC to the family's old plantation home in rural Arkansas. A home whose 19th century secrets rise up to haunt this family as they come together after years of indifference. All they want is to sell off the old place, crumbling into ruin, and settle their current differences,

Toni and Bo, who see themselves as the responsible children, grew up with their parents in Washington, while Franz (who the siblings call Frank) led his estranged life in parts unknown.

Toni as the eldest holds the power position in executing their father's will. Although single, she is raising her son Rhys (Adam Denoyer), now in his late teens.

Bo arrives from New York with his defensive wife Rachel (Bree Boyd), who only has insults for her in-laws. But their 13-year-old daughter Cassidy (Ella James) thinks Rhys is kind of cute.

Disheveled Franz/Frank makes his entrance climbing through a window. His companion is the free-spirited and much younger River (Emily Gates). Also cast is Alexander Cramton as Cassidy's younger brother Ainsley.

The large cast maintains a fine ensemble spirit working together to keep an involved story from ever getting bogged down. The play's ample humor is mostly in the form of snappy come-backs as each of the siblings and their families keep vying to be top dog while arguments continuously break out like flares in a raging wild fire,

The heat takes a quantum leap into racism when an old photo album is discovered from their father's own hidden past, as well as the presence of a white hood from the Ku Klux Klan.

Appropriate” continues through June 15, with performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays, in Live Theatre Workshop, 5317 E. Speedway Blvd.

Ticket are $15 Thursdays, $20 all others. For details and reservations, 327-4242, or livetheatreworkshop.org