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Queens Chronicle

Sci-fi hits stage in ‘Honeycomb Trilogy’

Part of a new program at the Secret Theatre

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Posted: Thursday, January 26, 2012 12:00 pm

As movies ranging from “2001: A Space Odyssey” to “Alien” to “The Astronaut’s Wife” have proven: going to space is not always a good thing.

This point gets driven anew in “Advance Man” at the Secret Theatre. The play kicks off a six-month series of works by three companies who have banded together to form the BFG collective.

The theater’s artistic director, Richard Mazda, calls it “a completely unique arrangement,” one that he expects could become a “signpost for other theaters.”

The three companies, Boomerang Theatre Company, Flux Theatre Ensemble and Gideon Productions, will offer works by established playwrights as well as brand new plays from several emerging writers.

“Advance Man,” which runs through Jan. 29, comes courtesy of Gideon and is the first part of “The Honeycomb Trilogy,” three related plays by Mac Rogers, which will all hit the Secret Theatre’s stage. “Advance Man” has generated considerable buzz playing to sold-out houses.

It centers on the family of an astronaut, Bill Cooke (Sean Williams), who led the first manned mission to Mars. Cooke is back home after three years, harboring secrets and illicit cargo that could forever alter humanity.

“I decided to make the first part the story of a family, leading up to the events that changed the world,” Rogers said. The next installment, “Blast Radius,” focuses on “life inside the house under the changed world,” while the final play, “Sovereign,” relates the final confrontation that will shape the future.

According to Rogers, 38, each play stands on its own, but he added there is a is a “level of emotional fulfillment” that comes from seeing all three.

“I wrote them carefully so that anyone can have a full night’s experience” without having seen the other two parts, he said.

“I’m still tweaking parts two and three,” he admitted.

Though the work has a science fiction bent, Rogers said, “You might be surprised how relatable it is. It is not like an episode of ‘Star Trek.’

“I grew up a big sci-fi fan, reading, watching TV. I got into theater and put that interest aside. Then I had ideas on how to do science fiction on stage.

“There is no point in competing with movies and TV. Onstage, you explore the ideas of science fiction.”

The trilogy’s second installment, “Blast Radius,” deals with the radical changes that have taken place after years of alien occupation and will run from March 29 to April 15. The conclusion, “Sovereign,” about how the human race slowly rebuilds, runs from June 14 to July 1.

Rogers said he is happy Gideon is part of the Secret Theatre’s BFG Collective.

“Richard Mazda is on a mission to make his part of Queens a vibrant arts scene. It’s a really interesting endeavor,” said Rogers. The Secret Theatre first opened its doors in 2007, in a space formerly occupied by a coffee-roasting warehouse.

August Schulenburg, artistic director of Flux, another BFG member, which has had several home bases since its inception in 2006, said he’s energized by Long Island City.

“It’s a generous, open-hearted place,” Schulenburg said. “There is so much talent, you bump into each other on the sidewalk.”

Schulenburg’s play, “Deinde,” will run at the Secret Theatre from April 28 to May 12, and like “The Honeycomb Trilogy,” has a sci-fi plot. It examines what happens when, in the not-too-distant future, pressure to cure a global pandemic spurs the invention of a device that allows a team of scientists to think directly into a powerful computer.

“It’s exciting stuff,” said Schulenburg, 35, who wrote the play in 2010 in what he called “a pretty quick process.”

“It came out pretty close to right,” he added.

Though he bears the title within his own theater company, “I don’t have the powers that most artistic directors have,” he said. “Everyone wears a lot of different hats.”

Boomerang, the collective’s third member, which annually presents free outdoor Shakespeare, will be offering three distinct works at the Secret Theatre, including “Much Ado About Nothing,” one of the Bard’s paeans to romantic shenanigans, from March 1 to 18, and Tom Stoppard’s romantic “dramedy,” “The Real Thing,” from March 3 to 24.

As if doing two plays in repertory weren’t enough of a test, Boomerang will also present a new play by Melissa Gawlowski, “Spring Tides,” from March 9 to 25, about a newly-pregnant woman who finds a hidden world behind a closet door.

BFG Collective

When: Multiple plays through July 1, including “The Honeycomb Trilogy,” “Deinde” and “The Real Thing.”

Where: The Secret Theatre, 44-02 23 St., Long Island City

Tickets: (718) 392-0722

secrettheatre.com

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