Looking for a comedy with aliens and lesbians that makes you contemplate your humanity while addressing our world’s impending climate doom? Spectrum Theatre’s Space Girl has got your back.
Space Girl, written by playwright and screenwriter Mora Harris, who earned her MFA from Carnegie Mellon, tells the story about a teenage alien named Arugula, played by sophomore theater student Michael-Ellen Walden, who transfers from Zalagdor to Earth with her father, Nancy, played by senior Max Kliman. Nancy’s job is to determine whether Zalagdor should invest in saving humans from their overheating atmosphere, while Arugula must try to act normal at high school.
Spectrum Theatre is a student company that aims to encourage a dialogue about important social and political issues through theater at Northwestern. Producer Sarah Friedman, who is a fourth year RTVF major and Director Melissa Lewyn, who is a second year performance studies major, chose Space Girl to address specific themes of femininity, sexuality and environmentalism.
“It’s this very interesting story about what it means to be unique if you don’t know that you’re unique, while also trying to save the Earth. It’s also just a really silly show.” Friedman said.
“There are also many universal questions that, no matter what walk of life you come from, you can partake [in] and immerse yourself in this space world,” Lewyn said.
I certainly did immerse myself in the space-themed set and swanky space music during scene transitions. Set designer Isabella Noe designed blue markings off features of Pluto and hand-painted the black backdrops to look like galaxies. String lights form the shapes of the Scorpius constellation and the Big Dipper.
The play encourages accepting sexuality and unconventional perceptions of femininity. Arugula lets her aggression out at the roller derby, where she meets a girl named Bruise, played by sophomore Mia Cavener, who makes Arugula realize she is a lesbian. Both actors had to learn how to rollerblade to skate around the set.
There’s a joke for everyone in the show. Kliman's portrayal of Nancy was a constant source of laughter and reminds me of SpongeBob SquarePants, in the best way possible.
“I really love when he says ‘lads of the flame,’ when he’s trying to pretend he knows what a fireman is,” Walden said.
There were hard-hitting moments between comedic ones that had me emotionally involved in the plight of the characters. There were also many moments I genuinely did not know where the plot was going. I was surprised by the unexpected cruelty and kindness of some characters who I thought were going to be righteous or unforgiving.
Walden and sophomore Valen-Marie Santos, who plays Arugula’s friend Charlotte, gave earnest portrayals of teen girls doing her best to fit in and make friends, and the actors’ natural chemistry made it enjoyable to watch their relationship develop. The way they blend awkwardness with the joy and anxiety of making a new friend in a lonely place is relatable.
“I love Arugula so much. Feeling like an alien and not knowing how to act in the role that has been dictated for you is something that I relate to a lot. I think her earnestness and wonder are really beautiful,” said Walden.
“I really want audiences to see something of themselves on stage and feel a little bit less alone in the world. That’s kind of the message of the show. Life is better when you’re a little bit less alone in the world,” Lewyn said. “I want people to think about what does it mean to be good human and what does it mean to be a bad human and if those terms even exist , good or bad, or if those are just subjective.”
Overall, Space Girl is a fun and unique and only 90 minutes long, which is a great way to spend the evening with a friend. “I mean we got it all. Salads, lesbians, space, what more could you want?” said Walden.
Space Girl will run Thursday at 7 p.m., Friday at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. at Shanley Pavilion for free.