Energy, actors, effects add up in "Entropy"

Bill Robens' new retro-futurist sci-fi parody agreeably converts comic energy into cosmic chaos

They say entropy isn’t what it used to be, but Bill Robens’ new retro-futurist sci-fi parody at Theatre of NOTE agreeably converts comic energy into cosmic chaos.

As in his 2009 noir spoof, “Kill Me, Deadly” at the same venue, Robens shrewdly mines inspired silliness from genre tropes.

Set at the early 1970s intersection of space race politics and Cold War paranoia, “Entropy” chronicles the voyage of the revolutionary green-powered Zeus rocket and its intrepid crew: the cocky, chauvinistic commander (Nicholas S. Williams), his proto-feminist “astronette” antagonist and inevitable love interest (Alina Phelan) and the homespun space vet (Trevor H. Olsen) looking forward to a comfy retirement after this last mission (good luck with that, old sport).

Their ostensible mission is to test the feasibility of parlor games in zero gravity (spoiler alert: yo-yos work; chess pieces, not so much). However, the gruff, embittered NASA program head (David Wilcox) soon blurts out the real agenda: to woo the newly sentient Soviet satellite Sputnik to the side of democracy with the promised companionship of a girl robot (“I’ve met her, she’s nice,” supportively chirps Wendi West’s mission control scientist).

The show’s hilarious zero-gravity effects are as much a credit to the performers’ acrobatic dexterity as to the ingenuity of director Christopher William Johnson and his first-rate design team, who seemingly defy the laws of physics — on a budget, no less — shoehorning impressively complete space and earthbound sets into a tiny stage.

One word of caution: In the interest of supporting an unquestionably talented 13-member ensemble, the piece is padded with more extraneous characters and subplots than anyone other than Harry Houdini could comfortably endure in the venue’s reconfigured lengthwise bleacher seating.

After a while, the cramped space capsule on stage starts to look like a first class upgrade.

“Entropy,” Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 7 p.m. Sundays; 8 p.m. May 27 and May 14 and 27. Ends May 30. $25. (323) 856-8611 or Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes.

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