'Brain' heavy on cheese

Which Olympia theater company is most likely to do "The Brain From Planet X" - or any musical that includes brains, blood, aliens, cannibals and a lot of cheese?

For South Sound theater-goers, the question should be an easy one: Theater Artists Olympia has made those props its staples.

“Brain” opens April 30, and yes, it’s a science-fiction send-up.

“I really adore 1950s science fiction,” said Josh Anderson, who’s directing the production. “It was that great moment where we were knee-deep in the Cold War and the imaginations of scientists were going crazy. It created a style of science-fiction that’s very campy and very silly to us nowadays.”

The show, by Bruce Kimmel and David Wechter, also sends up Broadway musicals – and just about anything else you can think of.

“The music and lyrics, mostly by Kimmel, are pastiches, at their cleverest when they nod toward shows you’d little suspect,” Darryl H. Miller wrote in a 2008 Los Angeles Times review. “There’s so much copying going on that audiences can make a virtual trivia game out of identifying the sources.”

Anne Midgette of the New York Times gave the 2007 New York Musical Theater Festival production of “Brain” a mixed review. It “tripped after a reasonably brisk act in a too-long second one, though it was sprinkled with genuinely funny touches.”

Anderson chose the show after TAO member George Dougherty, who is acquainted with Kimmel, suggested it. “We all agreed it was kind of amazing,” Anderson said.

The show’s creators have been communicating with Anderson during the production and are even coming to see it. “They are going to come see the show on May 7, and we’re going to have a talk-back with them following the performance,” the director said.

Although the show’s a spoof, it’s also a real story about real characters.

“It doesn’t go beyond that point where it’s just sheer entertainment,” he said. “You do have an authentic connection with the characters and their plight in the story.

“When the aliens invade, we hear a chorus of vomiting noises from offstage. We’ve got the terror of the alien invasion but also the silliness of a vomiting chorus.”

It’s interesting to note that the Brain’s plan to conquer Earth involves having humans communicate only via computer.

“On the Brain’s planet, they’ve evolved to the point where they don’t need human interaction or sex or passion or romance,” Anderson said. “They simply interact on screens, on keyboards. He’s going to try to turn the Earth into that.

But although this might appear to be ripe for serious social commentary, the director said it’s not done critically.

“It is a commentary,” he said, “but it’s a commentary without real judgment. By the end of the show, we care about all of the aliens as well as the humans.”