Pitiful Earthlings — bow to 'Intergalactic Nemesis'!

If you're in the mood for some science fiction silliness, "The Intergalactic Nemesis: A Live-Action Graphic Novel" promises to keep you laughing on Friday, June 20, at 8 p.m. in the Jim Rouse Theatre at Wilde Lake.

This Columbia Festival of the Arts presentation combines aspects of 1930s-style radio dramas with comic book art. Like such movies as "Star Wars" and "Raiders of the Lost Ark," this theatrical show looks to the campy science fantasy and adventure stories of that earlier era for its inspiration.

The actual staging involves comic book art being projected onto a large screen. These images have been stripped of their dialogue balloons, however, because there are three actors on stage who perform the voices for all of the characters in a deliberately over-the-top story.

These dialogue-spouting actors won't be the only ones producing live sound on stage. Another performer will be making live sound effects to accompany the action, much as studio technicians did for the old radio shows; and yet another performer will be doing an original piano score to help maintain the madcap mood.

As in a 1930s-period sci fi serial, the story indulges in non-stop pop-cultural cliches and improbable plot twists. Expect to meet a reporter in the Carpathian Mountains, and additional odd characters including a hypnotist named Mysterion the Magnificent.

Exotic locations include the Planet Robonovia. Alien life forms encountered include a race called the Zygonians, which are sludge monsters that are acidic to the touch. The Zygonians are dedicated to rubbing out the human race, because, well, that's what sludge monsters do.

These demented thoughts and more come from the mind of writer-director-designer Jason Neulander, who once described the show as a "mash-up comic book and radio play (that is) tapping into my own personal 12-year-old."

The Austin, Texas-based Neulander was the founder and former head of an experimental theater troupe called Salvage Vanguard.

In the mid-1990s, he came up with a sci-fi radio serial that was performed in an Austin coffee house. Since then, similar shows have comprised what amounts to a sci-fi saga.

There are so many pop-cultural associations percolating in this family-friendly stage show that audiences can relate to it on various levels.

That popular appeal has gained widespread media attention for "The Intergalactic Nemesis," including TV coverage on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" and radio coverage on NPR's "All Things Considered."

"The Intergalactic Nemesis: A Live-Action Graphic Novel" will be staged Friday, June 20, at 8 p.m., in the Jim Rouse Theatre at Wilde Lake, 5460 Trumpeter Road in Columbia. Tickets are $30- $45, $25- $40 for seniors and students. For ticket information, call 1-800-955-5566 or go to http://www.tickets.com. For Columbia Festival of the Arts information, call 410-715-3044 or go to http://www.columbiafestival.org.

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