March 31 2010 12:00 AM

It’s Halloween hysteria in Williamston comedy based on radio mix-up




Recipient of the 2009 Edgerton Foundation New American Play Award, “It Came from Mars” is a world premiere collaboration between Williamston Theatre and Ann Arbor’s Performance Network. The screwball comedy has a pay-what-youcan preview performance at 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 31 at Williamston Theatre.

A clever riff on the 1938 Halloween radio broadcast of “War of the Worlds,” by Orson Welles and the Mercury Players, “Mars” follows the members of "Farlowe’s Mystery Theatre Hour" as they are about to rehearse for their weekly radio show. When they catch the Welles broadcast mid-program, the actors — like millions of other Americans who tuned in — believe the alien invasion is real.

“I wanted to do something completely different than I had before,” said Michigan playwright Joe Zettelmaier, who wrote the play. “I’d never written a full-blown, everything-goes comedy.”

Tony Caselli directed the production, which played in February and March in Ann Arbor.

“Joe did a really nice job of working the actual events of the day into a funny exploration of group mentality and what happens when people lose their minds a little bit,” Caselli said. “I love working on new plays because you get to really shape the thing and help create the world.”

The show sold out during its last three weeks and received positive reviews in Ann Arbor, hype that Caselli hopes will carry over into Williamston.

“We got such great reviews, so we can keep using them,” he said. “The audience in Ann Arbor loved it, and I’m really looking forward to get our audience in Williamston to have fun, too. It really is a ridiculously fun show.”

The transition from one stage to another for the cast and crew has been a smooth one.

“It’s been a ton of fun rehearsing all over again,” Caselli said. “You don’t get the chance to run a play for five weeks and then adjust things to make it better. It’s fun to polish a few scenes that way, and we’re having a great time doing it.”

Joe Albright, who has portrayed World War I veteran George Loomis in both productions, has enjoyed working on the show.

“This one really was a hit show,” Albright said. “On top of all that, we have a blast doing it. From the very first day, everybody was on the same page. We were there to work and to have a good time.”

For Zettelmaier, putting on the show has been a dream come true.

“It’s easily one of the best experiences of my theatrical life,” he said.

’It Came From Mars’

Preview at 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 31 (pay-what-you-can); regular performances at 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, April 1-18 3 p.m. April 3, 10 and 17; 2 p.m. April 11 and 18 $18 Thursdays, $24 evenings Fridays and Saturdays, $20 matinees $10 for students with ID; $2 off ticket price for seniors (517) 655-7469 122 South Putnam, Williamston