The audience at Cathedral Park looked so normal. They licked Popsicles, fanned themselves with their programs and drank bottles of craft brew. There were kids. And dogs! There were surely other Star Trek know-nothings in the crowd at Trek in the Park, right? Then I began to notice the Star Trek T-shirts. And overhear conversations about the show's various incarnations. And then a trio nearby began ranking their favorite episodes.
But there was no need for worry. Though true Trekkies will appreciate more in-jokes, Atomic Arts' Trek in the Park series is broadly accessible. For four years running, the company has staged a different al fresco, lo-fi adaptation of a Star Trek episode each year. This summer, it's "Journey to Babel," which finds the Starship Enterprise transporting a bevy of intergalactic ambassadors to a conference while a devious assassin is at large. The installment has murder, deceit, family conflict, experimental surgery and blue-skinned aliens—not bad for an hourlong show.
The cast gives the episode a loving retelling, milking the most dramatic lines and winking at the campiest. Actors from previous years have returned to their old roles, with Adam Rosko (who also directs) as the brash Captain Kirk and Jesse Graff deadpanning as Spock. Paul Pistey, who has some of the best comic timing in the bunch, gives a likable performance as the smug Dr. McCoy.
Clownish physicality and one particularly spirited fight scene (Jaime Kirk, as the Andorian Thelev, somersaults onto the pavement) contribute to the show's appeal. Synth sound effects and spacey music ham up the action and provide entertainment during transitions, which can be choppy. The company is still adjusting to its new digs at Cathedral Park, which provides far more space than the original Woodlawn Park location (and audiences are shaded by the St. Johns Bridge) but also requires actors to speak up. Sit close to the stage if you can.
Or just find some Trekkies to sit beside and listen closely. That list-making trio? They delivered certain lines before the actors even got to them.
SEE IT: Trek in the Park is at Cathedral Park, North Edison Street and Pittsburg Avenue, atomic-arts.org. 5 pm Saturdays-Sundays through Aug. 26. Free.