The Bureau of Bat Shit Crazy- Review
The Bureau of Bat Shit Crazy, written by Alan Mackey, is a science fiction comedy about a secret branch within the Canadian government that takes care of all the paranormal activities that occur all over the country. I hate to say it, but this show has got to be one of the most confusing things I’ve seen on stage that I’m not even really sure how to begin this review.
Let’s start with the script: it’s about a dynamic duo, agents Lexi Ashford and Chris Cottrel (not unlike X-Files or Men in Black), who are usually hired by parliament to investigate and solve paranormal mysteries. On this particular day the Prime Minister’s Secretary of Affairs, Bob Shirley, informs them that, out of the blue, all funding to the Bureau is to be cut and the agents to be transferred or let go. However, the Prime Minister has one final mission for them: find his daughter’s cat, Potato. Taking on the PM’s daughter, Ashley, as an unlikely sidekick the now trio find themselves travelling multi-verses and continually running into some new and familiar faces.
Overall, I found this script to be incredibly unoriginal, completely juvenile, and the main reason why this production falls flat. It’s as if Mackey took little bits of every classic sci-fi book or film and threw it in his script. There were references and/or similarities to Doctor Who, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Scooby-Doo, etc, yet I found there to be no new thought behind the piece itself. The humour in this show is perplexing. It is unclear as to whether it is meant to be dry and witty or cheesy and clownish, or even both. A lot of the jokes didn’t translate and I’m not sure if I laughed more than twice.
Another problematic element in this production is that half the show seems to be pre-recorded exposition that plays during scene changes. Normally this wouldn’t be bothersome except the frequency and length of the transitions in this show made them quite tedious to listen to and I often had problems determining which character was which. I will admit, on the other hand, that these recordings are usually better than what is happening onstage.
I have to commend these actors for giving it their all as this isn’t exactly the most inspiring text to perform. Laura Hall plays agent Lexi Ashford with a strong conviction, Sean Hart as her partner Chris Cottrell offers a strong male presence on stage. I found Meghan Murphy, as Ashley, to be the funniest of the lot while Katie Volkert, as the Baroness, and Ron Langton, as Bob Shirley, were both weak in portraying the stereotypical villain and fool, respectively.
In conclusion, there is not much else to say about this production: it’s not very well written, its design is decent enough, and the acting is only average. My advice to Mackey for the future would be to start small and keep it simple. Science fiction of this kind is hard enough to nail on film without relying on animation, let alone putting it on a small stage like Studio Leonard Beaulne. In my experience, sci-fi is incredibly difficult to stage, and for a new playwright and director, perhaps not the best place to start.