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Here’s an experience that I get semi-often: Watching people on a stage act out characters in real time.

Here’s another: reading the dialogue and sound effects of a comic book out loud when my girlfriend isn’t watching. But, then here’s an experience that I don’t get very often: Watching people on a stage read the dialogue sounds effects of a comic book out loud. No, my girlfriend wasn’t there.

Some explanation. Actually no explanation. That’s pretty much exactly what happened. While surveying the usual annual list of events that will sooner or later grace the Royce Hall theatre on the UCLA campus, I received a peculiar advertisement announcing Intergalactic Nemesis: Book One. The ad really just confused me at first because it promised a “live performance” by “critically acclaimed voice-actors,” and an “award-winning audio specialist,” with “thousands of original drawings.” What the heck is going on? Admittedly, that was exactly the thought that compelled me to drop twenty dollars on a ticket. Now, a month and a half after seeing the show, I can safely proclaim to have decided on an opinion.

The show itself was, to be honest, a paradox. It managed to be unexpectedly awesome and unexpectedly terrible at the same time; a phenomenon I would attribute to a weird opinion reversal. See, when they first explained what was going to happen, I couldn’t help but laugh. Really? You’re going to read a comic book onstage? That’s just ludicrous. You’re mixing a private endeavor with public theatre! It’s like streaking through 3rd Street promenade, or worse! And yet, somehow they pulled the basic premise off.

And how? First off, it wasn’t a comic book reading as much as it was voice acting show. Since aesthetic of the characters and action were all defined by comic panels displayed in the background, the entire onstage show was there to provide the auditory experience. That meant that three people voiced the whole production. That’s three people against something to the tune of ten or twenty characters. While that might have been a show by itself, they weren’t even the main fixture on the stage. Since the stage show was the auditory experience, roughly half the space was taken up by the comically enormous workshop of the “audio designer,” who produced all the necessary sound effects live. That’s right! It was all homemade. Instead of cuing the “Thunderstorm soundtrack” from her laptop, she was out there slapping it out of Plexiglas panels. The effect was absolutely brilliant. While this cocktail of hysterical madness unfolded onstage, a comic book came to life on the backdrop. That experience alone was everything I’d always imagined all those nights reading comics under the covers.

Contributed exclusively for MONOLODGE by Adam Pica

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