With revived talk of UFOs bubbling about the Internet, and Halloween season upon us, there could hardly be a better time for a diverting comedy about a terrifying alien visitation. And that’s just what No Tea Productions, helmed by the writer-director duo of Jeff Sproul and Lindsey Moore, delivers with The Kentucky Goblin Siege.
True story: On the night of August 21, 1955, following the appearance of a startling bright light in the sky over Kentucky, the Lankford family and their house guests reported being besieged for hours in and around their house by a number of goblin-like creatures. Shots were fired at the seemingly impervious goblins. People were scared out of their wits. But police found nothing.
The story entered UFO lore, where it remains a mystery. The seven adults all told the same tale, described the creatures the same way, and stuck to their guns over the years. But were the strange visitors aliens? Or merely territorial owls? Some kind of mass hallucination? Or something else?
In The Kentucky Goblin Siege, they are semi-scary puppets, manipulated, in the trendy style of today, by black-clad puppeteers who appear on stage with their charges. These little monsters are cute, funny, and just a little creepy, which is a pretty good description of the play too.
The initial tableaux reveals a group of apparent rubes straight out of The Far Side. Elmer “Lucky” Sutton, ne’er-do-well brother of matriarch Glennie Lankford, regales the family with his banjo. Glennie’s cat-eye glasses practically lift her up off the stage. Her teenage son Lonnie stares slackjawed at nothing and rocks from side to side. The walls bristle with needlepoint.
What makes the play rewarding, aside from the pure fun of the action, is the slow destruction of the stereotypes. Elmer, it turns out, has a degree in physics; his friend Billy Ray Taylor, visiting with his wife and baby, has a big-city marketing job and the psychological malaise to go with it; Lonnie is a budding intellectual, while his fed-up sister Geraldine hates her “bo-o-oring” family and would rather be reading her angry poems at the local beatnik coffeehouse. These revelations make the play more human, and actually add humor to a production that already boasts some delightful performances, of which Jeremy Mather’s hilarious Lonnie, and Alexis Robbins’ blonde Carol Ann (woozy from chloroform half the time), are only the most-over-the top.
Puppets, aliens, funny people. Echoes of both Night of the Living Dead and The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street. What’s not to like? Well, I could imagine some UFO enthusiasts taking issue with the play’s almost entirely comedic take on a story respected by many as authentic. Such people can get awfully serious about their subject. But take it in the spirit of fun in which it is presented, and it’ll be hard to avoid having a good time. The Kentucky Goblin Siege runs Wednesday nights through November 24 at the Kraine Theatre.