(This review is by American-Statesman freelance arts critic Andrew J. Friedenthal.)
Agent Andromeda: The Orion Crusade, Sky Candy’s latest offering (playing through Sept. 24 at its Cesar Chavez location), is hard to classify. It’s a satirical science fiction musical with aerial acrobatics, burlesque performance, and erotic smuttiness all mixed together into a visual extravaganza.
Written by Reina Hardy, Agent Andromeda follows the adventures of the titular galactic hero as she both fights to save the galaxy from the forces of corporate evil and quests for a mystical chalice simmering with the power of unbridled sexuality. Along the way we meet a cadre of colorful characters, each with their own unique quirks and sexual proclivities.
As you might infer, this is an adults-only production, melding high concept science fiction with heavy eroticism. Interestingly, though, both the science fiction (dog fights in space, ray-gun battles, exotic weaponry) and the sexuality are expressed through impressive aerialist showcases (aided by the work of costume designer E.L Hohn, lighting designer Patrick Anthony, and composer Tyler Mabry). At their best, these displays of acrobatics, baton twirling, bawdy burlesque, and aerial silk play into the plotline of the show or the emotional tenor of the moment. Even when this isn’t the case, though, they still impress with beautifully choreographed and skillful maneuvering.
However, although it soars high, Agent Andromeda never quite finds its feet. The show is structured like a musical (or, more fittingly, like a porn film), with various plot permutations leading into and out of specific aerial performances.
As such, the plot can get convoluted and meandering as we wait for the next splashy moment, with scenes that alternate between silly and dramatic without a smooth transition.
The mélange of different performance styles never fully gel, and ultimately the whole isn’t equal to the sum of its parts.
That is not to say, though, that those parts aren’t worth seeing in their own right, and director Rudy Ramirez and choreographer Joanna Wright have highlighted the strengths of their talented cast. The aerial performances of Caroline Poe and Andy Agne are breathtaking at times, as are (in a different sense) the burlesque stylings of Ginger Snaps and Lola LeStrange. Jennifer Coy delights in a side-splittingly comedic role as the narrator and songstress of the show, fittingly named Big Bang Bettie.
The highlight of Agent Andromeda, though, is the duo of Jackie Stone and Amanda Clifton as Agent Andromeda’s crewmates, Leda and Cygna. The pair not only play off each other well comically, but they also are able to embody the most realistic relationship in the show (in large part because the script gives that relationship time to breathe and develop). Their aerial duet, as a result, is one of the most beautiful moments of the entire piece, charged as it is with emotional and erotic resonance.
Agent Andromeda: The Orion Crusade is many things, but what it succeeds most at is joyful spectacle that enchants even as it arouses.