Over 50-years-ago, cult film director Ed Wood Jr. released “Plan 9 From Outer Space”, which was later labeled by movie critics as the worst movie of all time.
The production was put together by the mind behind the Maverick Theater, Brian Newell, who adapted the film for the stage as well as produced, directed and designed the miniature sets of the play. This marks the Maverick Theater’s fifth year putting on their production of Plan 9.
Newell was inspired to adapt the film for the Maverick because “it was so deliciously horrible.”
For those that don’t know what “Plan 9 From Outer Space” is about – aliens are trying to take over earth by invading it with zombies brought back to life with alien technology and the earthlings that try to save their world.
The production’s main stars are Spencer Douglas (who performs a dual role as the campy narrator of the play, Criswell, and alien Commander Eros) and Sean Coutu as airplane pilot Jeff Trent.
Other notable cast members are John Castro as Captain Clay and Ingrid Garner as Vampira. Both actors looked nearly identical to the original actors in Wood’s original film.
Also on the stage and making an undead appearance is actor Bela Lugosi.
Well, not exactly Lugosi, but there are a few segments from the original Plan 9 film that featured the horror icon that are used in the play as a backdrop screen projection. Other parts of the play that used Lugosi’s likeness were a skeleton-on-wheels with a vampire mask on to depict the actor’s character.
Lugosi himself wasn’t even alive during the making of the original Plan 9 From Outer Space. Wood used segments of one of his unfinished films that had Lugosi featured in, but had unfortunately passed away during filming.
It’s the skeleton-on-wheels that is the charm of Newell’s production. Other special effects used during the stage performance are cap guns (sans gun powder caps) and Frisbee flying saucers that were thrown from behind the audience by Maverick’s Light and Magic Team, which consists of Lauren Shoemaker, Joe Sanders and Chris Jones.
The Light and Magic Team is visible throughout the performance. They can be seen stage left above the actors tinkering away to create a black-and-white backdrop that’s being filmed and projected as flying saucers made of bottle caps and other do-it-yourself miniatures dazzle the audience with humorous effect.
“The special effects in that movie were inferior one could say,” said Newell, as he introduced the performance to the modest-sized audience. “But they were entertaining and we never again wanted to out-do what they did.”
One effect that the original film couldn’t do and that the Maverick Light and Magic Team can’t create is the actors interacting with the audience.
Multiple times during the performance, actors either walked on stage from behind the audience or exited the stage to sit next to one audience member busy notating the performance itself for their own reasons.
The interaction between actors and audience equals hilarity, especially when a blow-up doll dressed as one of the lady characters was being tossed to the audience to bounce around like a beach ball at a baseball game until it finally gets to the stage and the story continues.
The Maverick Theater will be performing “Plan 9 From Outer Space” Saturdays and Sundays through Nov. 19. Tickets are available online for $20 ($10 with a student ID).