Zuzz the Alien Needs Your Help!, a 50-minute one-alien show co-created by Amanda Coffin and Bill D’Agostino, stars Hannah Parke as Zuzz, the titular extra terrestrial whose spaceship has crashed on Earth. Her self-appointed mission is to invite the people of Earth to celebrate in Glofenshopenshpiel, the most important holiday on her planet. This holiday takes place once every 5 years and she is to be the grand marshal in the parade that is being held tomorrow. She needs the help of the audience to fix her spaceship, Athena, so she can get back in time for the parade.
Parke is energetic and playful as she embodies her character of a young alien. She interacts with both the adults and the children in the audience with ease. She has to, as she is the only actor on stage for the entire show. She is sweet, funny, and ad libs well with the audience as they call out the answers to help her fix her broken ship. Her energy is boundless and is contagious to not only the kids who go up on stage to help her repair her ship, but also when, at one point, grown-ups are called in to help! Hot tip: You’re more likely to be called if you sit towards the front. You have been advised/warned.
The show incorporates some educational aspects as Zuzz requests the audience’s help breaking a coded message and assembling the pieces to the sides of her broken ship using logic and some knowledge that the pre-school crowd can handle. There’s even a fun little sing-along to help her get Athena back in working condition.
Parke accomplishes an impressive feat of holding the attention of a roomful of kids with no one to act off of except the audience. She does have the occasional communication (people are heard but not seen) with her spaceship, her planet’s commander and even one time, her parental units, who have called to scold her for going to Earth in the first place!
And here’s my main concern with this otherwise flawless children’s show. Zuzz has directly disobeyed her parents (and the rules of the planet’s leaders) in order to prove that Earth is not violent, as they had observed. Yes, we have been deemed a violent race and they don’t want us being violent at their party. I understand the reasoning of this plot device, but it kind of came out of left field in otherwise light-hearted tale of exploration and learning. I also get the logic behind wanting to prove that the humans SHE meets are kind and helpful, but encouraging kids to go against their parents’ wishes might not be the best message to send. Thankfully, I think that take-away is more of a parent’s qualm than a pre-schooler’s manual for civil disobedience.
The set of the break-away spaceship and blackboard walls are perfect for accomplishing the learning aspects of the show. Parke’s spot-on child-like energy is helped with her costume of bright pink pig tails, star-spangled denim overalls, green leggings and frilly shirt. Her green skin and bright pink hair is explained as common features of all the people on her planet. The house lights are on for the entire show save for the few black-outs and light flashes indicating the spacehip’s crash and take-off. The simplicity of the set and costume, as well as the educational aspects of the show practically begs for it to become a traveling production suitable for early education programs.
Most importantly, my kids loved the show. I loved the show. It seemed all the other kids and the grown-ups in the audience love the show. Honestly, if you want to give your kids a fun, interactive, and learning experience, head to ACT II Playhouse in Ambler and catch one of the remaining shows until April 29th. You will not be sorry.