dodecahedron: (Default)
[personal profile] dodecahedron
I have to take a minute to rave about the show I saw last night--Vehicula Justicis, a musical written, directed, and partially performed by [livejournal.com profile] sanura.

I don't know what to call it. It's a comic space opera that really is an opera. It's a sci-fi tribute to Dr. Horrible. It's Firefly fan fiction on stage. It's a courtroom drama in space where the main character is an androgynous, dirty-minded, eerily sociable version of HAL. It's a combination of genres, not in the "cliches jarringly thrown together" sense, but a genuinely new thing created out of scraps of Joss Whedon shows and musical theater.

The Vehicula Justicis is a spaceship functioning as a sort of traveling courtroom in space; it contains a captain/judge, a newbie court reporter/log officer, an engineer, and a doctor suspect. It's interesting that most of the human characters are defined by their relationship to the most interesting character, the AI that controls and personifies the ship. VJ has either a male voice or a female voice ([livejournal.com profile] sanura), switching back and forth at will. At various times it seems to be a flirtatious buddy to the captain/judge, a love interest to the engineer, and a verbal sparring partner to the recorder and the doctor. The AI is strictly forbidden from discovering knowledge about the legal cases being decided on board, but despite the humans' careful measures, its relentless curiosity is hard to counteract.

They sing, too. [livejournal.com profile] sanura and friends wrote some beautiful music, very well expressed by the actors and the piano-bass-guitar combo. There are moments where you hear three or four solos turn into harmony, and you have to lean forward and take notice. This is good stuff.

I've never seen a spaceship setting on stage before. It's interesting. There's no planetary exploration, space-suited heists, or grimacing Klingons on viewscreens, and yet it works beautifully. Unity of place is cool, especially with a parade of suspects appearing at the airlock door for interest. I'm fascinated by the idea of a character who is also the setting, something I've never seen before on stage. The actors have great opportunities to look upward and dialogue with the male/female offstage voice. The set is simple without seeming minimalist. A few waist-high posts, combined with Star Trek door-opening noises and body language, work astonishingly well to suggest walls, hallways, and rooms (I guess I should say bulkheads, decks, and cabins)--something else I've never seen before on stage.

I got the impression of a brilliant first draft. The legal plot was not quite explained and left me with nagging questions: how did the AI accomplish its manipulations, of the docket particularly? Why do the verdicts mean what they do to the various crew members? [livejournal.com profile] sanura as the female half of the AI's voice stands out in the acting department, as does Lars playing the engineer in love with the AI whose source code she is frantically hacking; the rest maybe suffered from not enough practice or acting advice. The program said there was a last-minute casting change, and things worked smoothly anyway. The bad parts are easily correctable; the good parts are surprising and new and brilliant.

[livejournal.com profile] sanura, if you decide to continue in this vein, you will do great new things that people will love. Whatever your next crazy project is, I'm already curious about it, and I want to be a part of it.

Date: 2013-05-28 01:28 am (UTC)
sanura: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sanura
Well. Ye gods. I just searched the name of my show to see if I still had a copy of the script up on the net somewhere, and found this, which I'd never seen before. It's a little late to thank you for such a brilliant review, but damn is it a good one (and accurate enough about the flaws that I can believe the good parts). Thanks.

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May 2011

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