“All systems go. Everything’s A-OK.” John Powers, a NASA scientist, entered the above words into our daily lexicon years ago as America entered the space race. A rocket – and our spirits – soared.
Alas, the systems do not go and everything is not A-OK with Theater Jugend’s “Captain Jett Bettington and The Adventures on Planet Earth,” co-authored by Jacob Albarella and Jason Kaiser. It’s now playing at the ALT Theater, on the third floor of the sprawling and other-worldly Great Arrow complex.
Don’t get me wrong. The adventures of the lovable but bumbling astronaut – foolish, vain and inept Captain Jett – can be fun, silly and incredibly goofy. It’s a welcome tonic for our weather blues and mind-numbing political nonsense.
It’s just that this Albarella-Kaiser opus, this “Space Odyssey in Three Episodes,” is so sophomoric and vaudevillian, so clunky, so haphazardly pasted together, that it often runs short of giggles during its 80 minutes, an uncharacteristic trait when the talented Albarella is involved.
Captain Jett, a pompous, harmless fool, cut from the Buzz Lightyear mold from a far-off galaxy called Planeton, has again volunteered for hazardous duty; no one else has come forward. The Captain is the only one stupid enough to take on the job, which is to travel to neighboring asteroids to rob enough natural resources to help a “decrepit, ramshackle” Planeton survive.
Jett’s nemesis, the cackling, plotting Lt. Rex Wagerson, hopes the mission fails so he can save the day, thereby winning favor with The Masters and the lovely Captain Kay, a mysterious and sultry military officer who has Jett’s eye.
Jett and his faithful co-pilot, the robot Dovid, blast off from Planeton in a rickety spacecraft that looks like a go-cart on steroids. Of course they crash – on Earth, into a small-town warehouse where they are bandaged and soothed by a pretty and kind waif named Zoey. Jett and Dovid have near-disaster experiences with Earthlings, mostly because Jett’s bravado causes riot and ruin. Zoey rescues. Are Jett and Zoey a couple?
Don’t lose any sleep about this. Planeton is saved. Earth? It will never be the same.
“Jugend,” from the German, means “youth.” Company director Drew McCabe has a stockpile of young talent – actors, writers, singers, tech wizards – and he loves these make-shift shows where sets have little meaning and physical or situational comedy run rampant. These are times when the rubbery Albarella is superb – he can out-tumble Chevy Chase any day of the week – doubletakes and fibs multiply and foolishness is king. McCabe’s “Jugendistas” have fun doing what they do. No apologies necessary.
“Captain Jett Bettington and The Adventures on Planet Earth” also features D.P. Morris, Jamie Nablo, Eric Mowery – sinister and dastardly as Lt. Rex – Matt Fleck, Lindsay Salamone, Dudney Joseph, Mara Westerling and Chris Scherr.
Albarella and Kaiser surely wrote or contributed mightily to some excellent video moments – outer space TV commercials, hilariously spoofing some with Western New York ties – but design credits go to Dominic Luongo.
Long live Captain Jett Bettington. It’s a given that we’ll learn of more adventures.