If you think “Mystery Science Theater 3000” is a hoot, try watching one of Michael Dale Brown’s live theater productions, with stories and characters similar to the films mocked on the show.
Brown, the board president of Costa Mesa Playhouse, has written two such plays: “Earthlings Beware,” which had successful runs at the playhouse in 2007 and 2011, and now “Vampire Queen of Mars,” which gets its world premiere Oct. 19.
Like “Earthlings Beware,” “Vampire Queen of Mars” is a campy spoof of 1950s science-fiction B-movies — in this case, spaceflight flicks like “Cat-Women of the Moon” and “Queen of Outer Space.”
Brown said science fiction was his favorite film genre growing up in the 1950s. A seventh-grade classmate introduced him to monster magazines, which he got hooked on and started collecting, before he started going to the movies.
“In those days, [it] was limited to low-budget exploitation films, not at all like the mega-budget science fiction that dominates cinemas today,” he said.
He loved anything that had to do with science fiction, fantasy or monsters — even if it was bad — and that interest carried over from childhood, spawning his original plays.
Brown said that this genre lends itself to parody.
Alien invasion films like “It Came From Outer Space” and “Invaders from Mars” inspired “Earthlings Beware.” By contrast, “Vampire Queen” spoofs the ’50s sci-fi sub-genre in which “earth sends a rocket to the moon or Venus or Mars and invariably encounters an Amazon-like, female-dominated society which oppresses men.”
The storyline is classic Grade-Z, or low-budget. In response to mysterious distress signals, according to the show synopsis, Earth launches its first manned rocket to Mars and encounters a race of Amazon vampires with a thirst for human blood, led by the beautiful and evil Queen Voluptua (played by Brooke Lewis).
Brown originally intended to adapt 1953’s “Cat-Women of the Moon” and its 1958 remake “Missile to the Moon” for the stage, but found they weren’t in the public domain, so he decided to write his own script, drawing on those films — and others — for inspiration.
“I threw in the vampire element to spice it up a bit,” Brown said. “The women are not true vampires in the undead Dracula vein, but they do survive on drinking blood, or ‘essence’ as they call it, and live for thousands of years …The tone is pure silliness, but I do ask the cast to play it straight in the style of the original films and encouraged them to watch those old movies.”
IF YOU GO
What: “Vampire Queen of Mars”
Where: Costa Mesa Playhouse, 661 Hamilton St., Costa Mesa
When: Oct. 19 to Nov. 11, Fridays to Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m.
Cost: $22 and $20 for students and seniors