E.T. Me 

Circuit's Resident Alien isn't out of this world.

Look, he's supposed to be an alien. His face is painted green. His neck is green. His hands are green. So, please, paint the damn bald spot. You just can't have an alien with a green face and a pink bald spot. It's distracting.

They say in space nobody can hear you scream. For pity's sake, why couldn't Circuit Playhouse have done Resident Alien in space? It would have been so much easier that way.

Resident Alien isn't just bad. Oh, no. It's profoundly incompetent. That's just the script. Circuit's production, a ham-fisted overactathon that makes Mama's Family look like Ingmar Bergman, manages at times not to measure up to the idiotic material. Given the oft-touted professionalism of the producing body, a generally competent director in the person of Ann Marie Hall, and a couple of heavy-hitters in leading roles, Resident Alien is shocking in its sub-middle-school standards. If there were ever a solid argument for staying home and watching reruns of VIP on the boob tube, this sappy, unfunny, platitude-laden disaster is it.

Let's build the model. Take the fish-out-of-water aspects of sci-fi comedies My Favorite Martian and Mork and Mindy and mix it up with the feel-good wisdom of K-Pax. To this mix, add the devil-may-care road-trip atmosphere (and value system) of a teenage spring-break feature and turn the whole thing into some kind of interstellar Forrest Gump. Now, dumb all of this down so much that cable television wouldn't air it at 3 in the morning, but be sure to quote lots of highbrow philosophers to make it seem way-deep. If you can imagine this, then you can imagine Resident Alien. The story is a trite one, filled with conventions. Billy, the child of divorced parents, is abducted by aliens while visiting his dad. Dad tells the story, but nobody believes him. A little green bisexual party dude shows up in town and starts meddling in people's lives, trying to make them all better. Nobody notices he's green. Billy gets returned; Dad is vindicated. Everybody parties on.

Now here's a big problem that might help illumine one of the script's primary idiocies. When a child turns up missing, people look for that child. But in Resident Alien the abduction happens and is then forgotten about as the little green dude goes around fixing people's emotional problems. Nobody looks for the kid. Not the mom. Not the dad. Not the sheriff. Nobody calls the feds. Nobody organizes a search party. Ten days pass. Nobody seems too concerned. Mom has sex with a little green stranger in a bar, in front of her drunken husband, and she learns how not to be too uptight. And all of this happens while nobody is looking for her kid. On a similar note, Billy's dad, a bookish soul, is far more concerned whether or not his buddy has ever read Tolstoy than he is with ever seeing his kid again. Disbelief can only be suspended so far.

The show is set in Wisconsin, but you'd never know from all the Irish accents floating around on the stage. Did somebody put the dialect tapes in the wrong cases or something?

The set had to have cost at least $11 if it cost a dime. As badly executed as the set was for Circuit's previous production, The Lady in Question, this series of badly painted flats ornamented with two-dimensional cows is much worse. Then there is the acting, which makes the set look positively professional by comparison. Sloan Raney, a newcomer to the Memphis stage, gives a particularly troubling performance as Ray, an alcoholic bar owner short on sense and style. Ray has been given most of the play's funniest lines, and Raney is keenly aware of this. Every laugh he gets is an invitation to mug a little harder, speak a little louder, and walk a little funnier. It's a textbook case of how not to act in a broad comedy. Ashley Bugg, Ken Mitten, and John Maness do the best they can but ultimately fall flat on their faces, crushed under the weight of the truly awful dialogue. As the little green man from space who just wants to drink a little beer and watch an episode of Friends, Jason Cooper couldn't be less engaging, but when you've been given one joke to milk for two hours, there's not very much to be done.

For being the kind of play that substitutes "life lessons" for action, Resident Alien seems to have a dangerous moral: If you don't fit in, leave. It's a message aimed at all the geeks and misfits of the world, for anyone who has ever felt like an alien in his or her own home. It's a stupid, stupid message in a stupid, stupid play that was clearly written for stupid, stupid people. With Resident Alien following the plagued Lady in Question, Circuit is zero for two on the new season. The good news is, things can't get much worse.

Through October 19th.

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