Sci-fi rock opera & GW’s Menagerie

In GW Jazz Studies professor James Levy’s new science fiction rock opera, Joan of Arc is reincarnated into the body of a do-gooder pop star who uses her wealth to try to change the world. After she fails, the aliens show up. Sound crazy? Much of the opera is set in a mental institution.

“When ET Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” is the product of Levy’s hard work and fantastic imagination. During a trip to Israel 20 years ago, Levy began writing his science fiction rock opera, arguably creating the first of its kind.

“I was thinking about how a prophet would end up in society today, like Joan of Arc, who heard the call of God,” Levy said. “Rather than religious things, this is about what would happen if ET came to earth. Civilized creatures would come and see our hunger and poverty,” After her failed attempts to save the world, Joan checks herself into a mental asylum, where aliens (who are also fans of Rock’n’Roll) come to visit her and interact with humans.

Levy created both the script and score and funded much of the play’s opening. If the Washington premiere goes well, he said he would like to take the play elsewhere and find “some rocker from the ’70s that everyone remembers to play a part, like Ozzy.” A die-hard fan of sci-fi literature, Levy acknowledged that his opera wasn’t exclusively a wild intergalactic journey. “It has messages about world peace,” he said.

Performances of “When ET Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” are at the Takoma Theater, 6833 4th St. N.W. Performances are at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Tickets are $12 for students.

-Maura Judkis

GW theater department gives Tennessee Williams another go

The recent successful performance of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” by the GW Department of Theater and Dance is being matched this weekend by the production of another of Tennessee Williams’ masterpieces, “The Glass Menagerie”.

The play, directed by Nate Garner, is acted with steady experience by seniors Julie Griffith, Brett Levanto and Gerard Williams. Crystal Flaherty, a relative newcomer to the stage, plays Laura with a deliberate gentleness that rounds off the cast’s abilities.

“The Glass Menagerie”, which was first staged in Chicago, 1945, mirrors enough of Tennessee Williams life to be called autobiographical by many students of his work. The play examines memory, as painfully human and honest as it is, as the only explanation for human disenchantment. Despite Tennessee Williams’s experience as a member of the working-class, a drunk father and a mentally ill sister, it is difficult to really know if he was as disenchanted in life as were his literary influences, Hemmingway, D.H. Lawrence and other members of the Lost Generation. However “Menagerie’s” sense of hopelessness and bitter beauty is tough to ignore.

Gerard Williams, who plays Tom, brings a heightened sense of bitterness matched by an equally alive sense of dark humor. Tom is a passionate lover of art and literature who is held back by the boundaries of the stage. He represents Tennessee Williams’ own desire to have the freedom to always be living the poetry of life.

Tickets for “The Glass Menagerie” are $8 for students. The play will be performed in the Dorothy Betts Marvin Theater on Oct. 7, 8 and 9 at 7:30 p.m. and Oct. 10 at 2 p.m.

-Heather Struck

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