Get Your Tomato Arm Loose at Claus Vs. Martians

Here are two things I like: Theater and throwing things at people. Normally, I can’t mesh my appreciation for stage plays and drilling someone in the face with a ball, but thankfully Santa Claus Vs. The Martians at The Onyx Theater has given me that chance.

The play, based on the “classic” 1964 film Santa Claus Conquers The Martians, is schlocky, hokey, cheesy, goofy, silly, idiotic, ridiculous and really, a lot of fun. Did I mention corny?

Let’s not kid ourselves. This is midnight theater adapted from a B-movie. If you’re looking for a 12 am production of The Iceman Cometh, you have bigger problems to worry about than just finding your desired show.

So here’s the plot (if you want to call it that): Martians come to Earth to retrieve Kris Kringle because all the kid Martians are sad. Poor Martian children being raised by Tiger Moms on MarsThe Martians also pick up two irascible scamps, Earth children Billy and Betty (Ben Tucker and Nicole Unger). There’s Martian infighting, revenge Santa Claus style, and a character arc for one alien who finds his dream. Does any of this matter? No.

The Martians mispronounce words on purpose. There’s a giant robot. And two old lady space creatures. What else do you want? Oh, right: The chance to throw things at performers.

Before the show, director John Tomasello runs an auction. If you donate to the starving actors’ fund (the actors in the play), you get to sit in the front row and pelt the players with foam rubber “tomatoes” for the length of the entire performance.

As Tomasello said, “I knew someday, there would be a ‘home of the foam tomatoes.’ I just needed the right venue plus the right show to make it work.” (If you’re worried about running out of tomatoes, don’t. The actors continually kick them back into the crowd.)

The truth is, you could zone out the entire time and just focus on throwing the tomatoes at the actors and have a blast.

On the night I went, which Tomasello said was the rowdiest, audience members were crawling on stage to get their tomatoes back. I spent the majority of my tomato tossing trying to get Unger to break character, blasting her over and over again with the foam balls. There was something gratifying getting a couple of smiles out of her as I continually dropped the same tomato on her head multiple times as she was “passed out” on stage via Martian stun gun.

The final show of this run will be Dec. 23 and it promises be a special night for the SCVTM team as Pia Zadora, whose debut film acting role was in Santa Claus Conquers The Martians, will be in the audience. If you go, I highly recommend sitting in the front row. (I won’t be there. I wouldn’t have the willpower to not throw tomatoes at Zadora. I threw a few at Tomasello, and all he did on stage was make pre-show announcements.)