Can planet Earth be saved?

Courtesy of Fort Lewis College

Three actors handle 17 roles in the live-action graphic novel radio/stage play “Intergalactic Nemesis.” “Book One: Target Earth” will be staged tonight at the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College.

By Ted Holteen Herald staff writer

It is always a challenge to describe something by comparison where no comparison exists.

That’s the case with “The Intergalactic Nemesis, Book One: Target Earth.” There just aren’t any other live-action graphic novels out there we can use for reference, not counting Book Two, which already is in production.

The show is the creation of Jason Neulander, whose ties with fellow Austin, Texas, native Charles Leslie is what brings the stage show to Durango tonight. Neulander took one part 1930s sci-fi, one part graphic novel (see also: comic book) and one part radio play and mixed in a bit of modern technology to make a one-of-a-kind evening of entertainment.

Leslie was the first to book “The Intergalactic Nemesis” in Texas, taking it from a 50-seat theater to a 1,200-seat performing arts center. As director of the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College, he’s been working for three years to bring it here.

“I remember years ago sitting with Jason and I told him, ‘Remember, I was the first one to bring it out of your crappy theater,’” he said.

Leslie has an eye for talent, because Neulander’s next stop will be Broadway’s New Victory Theatre. He is booked for more than 100 dates worldwide in the coming year.

What started as a traditional radio play – aired at 2 a.m. on the Austin public station more than a decade ago – has grown into a multimedia stage show with two-story projections and a polished look. Neulander, Foley artist/sound effects whiz Buzz Moran and Grammy-nominated keyboardist Graham Reynolds performed a scene from the show Feb. 14 with Conan O’Brien and Andy Richter on TBS’ late-night “Conan” show.

Three actors, with help from Moran and Reynolds, assume 17 roles for the show, which is presented in the style of an old-time radio play. The images, created by Tim Doyle and taken from the actual book, are projected above and around the performers to augment the story.

The plot is reminiscent of the Red Scare era of “Flash Gordon” tales. In 1933, a mad scientist, set on world domination, stocks a planet with evil robots. Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Molly Sloan and her intrepid research assistant Timmy Mendez team with Ben Wilcott, a mysterious librarian from Flagstaff, Ariz. Together, they travel the world, then to the Robot Planet and finally to Imperial Zygon to face an invading force of outer space sludge-monsters.

Expect to see “Book Two: Robot Planet Rising” on the Concert Hall Stage in the near future.

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