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      Escape from Pterodactyl Island
    Leapin' lizards

    "Escape from Pterodactyl Island" isn't imaginative or crazy enough to live up to its potential as a science-fiction musical.


    If "Escape From Pterodactyl Island" had as much bite as the carnivorous creatures that inhabit it, this new musical might have a chance to become the next "Bat Boy" or "Urinetown." But for a show that's billed as a satire of 19th-century Jules Verne / H.G. Wells science fiction, it's surprisingly tame, closer to an homage than a spoof.

    Written by: Peter Morris.
    Directed by: Phillip George.
    Cast: Kevin Carillo, Alexandra Carlson, Joe Carney, Catherine Carpenter, Ethan James Duff, Frederick Hamilton, Tim Jerome, Jessica Morris, Lauren Rubin, zJoey Sorge, Douglas C. Williams.
    Music by: Michael Jeffrey, Peter Morris.
    Wings Theatre
    154 Christopher St. between Washington & Greenwich
    Aug. 8-24, 2003

    Either style could work. In its present state, however, the musical seems stuck between those two extremes, as if authors Peter Morris (book and lyrics) and Michael Jeffrey (music) were reluctant to go too far in either direction, lest they ostracize a segment of their audience.

    The result is a respectably rendered, but somewhat bland, musical. The day that English scientist Dr. Devo (Broadway vet Tim Jerome) announces his plan to create the perfect human being, an assassin's bullet meant for him kills his wife. Jump forward 25 years and another scientist, Professor Robert Worthington (Joey Sorge), is embarking on an overseas journey. When a tidal wave wrecks his ship, he washes up on a primitive uncharted isle with stowaway fiancee Margaret (Alexandra Carlson) and young shipmate Toby (Kevin Carillo).

    Instead of Gilligan or the Skipper, they find pterodactoids, sexy creatures in leather harnesses with a penchant for eating flesh. But even these bondage birds aren't terribly edgy or campy and could have been utilized to more humorous ends. Also on the island is Devo, who's turned it into a laboratory in his continuing quest of the perfect human. Instead, however, his experiments of living creatures have produced half-breed misfits, including crab-clawed servant Claude (Douglas C. Williams). When Devo discovers that Margaret is his long-lost daughter, he unleashes a plan to make her the queen of his artificially enhanced tribe.

    This premise could have gone in some promising directions. With so many partially clothed inhabitants wandering about, the island could represent a place of sexual freedom, far from Victorian society's constraints. But there's not a lot of subtext or a great deal at stake. Devo isn't on that popular mad-scientist quest for world domination, and the characters aren't distinguished enough that their fate seems all that important.

    Robert wastes barely a second mourning his transformed fiancee before taking up with a scantily clad cave woman (Catherine Carpenter) whose only conversation involves repeating words he says. At that point it's hard not to hope for a pterodactoid to swoop down and rip off some part of his body. (Take your pick.)

    On paper this show looks like a good idea. And the talented cast and creative team, including director Phillip George ("Forbidden Broadway"), execute it with professional distinction. Morris and Jeffrey clearly know how to write a musical, and their score has some memorable melodies, especially uptempo ensemble numbers like "Brave New World," "Captain of My Fate" and "There's Gonna Be a Happy Ending."

    But what makes standard musicals and science fiction appealing is that indefinable sense of wonder and magic that the best invoke. Without that or enough sharp comedy to mark it as a lampoon, "Escape From Pterodactyl Island" feels like one of Devo's flawed experiments.

    AUGUST 21, 2003

    Reader comments on Escape from Pterodactyl Island:

  • Escape From Pterodactyl Island the musical   from Anonomous, Feb 25, 2005

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