Going Rogue: More Fun Than Earthlings and Extraterrestrials Deserve

Nicole Ledoux, Sarah Hinrichsen, Melanie Neilan, Jacquelin Lorraine Schofield, all Photos by John Perrin Flynn

Rogue Machine’s very first musical, Diane Frolov’s wacky Come Get Maggie, is simply out of this world. And Judith Borne must be the craftiest PR genius on this or any other planet, as she is uncannily promoting Maggie by arranging for the U.S. military to shoot down UFOs, just as this play about flying saucers debuts. Talk about publicity stunts! (Just don’t tell NORAD…)

The eponymous Maggie (Melanie Neilan) has the misfortune of having the brains of a nuclear physicist but living during America’s conformist fifties. Pressured to get with the patriarchal program, Maggie makes an ill-considered marriage to stick-in-the-mud Hugh (Chase Ramsey, who appeared on Broadway in The Book of Mormon and in episodes of Law and Order and Yellowstone). Feeling straightjacketed by her straitlaced suburban existence, hemmed in by the droll “Mothers Militia” and by Hugh’s Auntie Ruthie (Ovation and NAACP Theater Award winner Jacquelin Lorraine Schofield), who all enforce strict adherence to bourgeois society’s notions of norms, Maggie breaks free of this orbit of conventional expectations through the juiciest deus ex machina since Aristophanes: Alien abduction.

This deliriously, dizzy, frothy comedic concoction takes us on a genre- and gender-bending excursion to outer space with the unexpected, yet hilarious, upending of binary standards of “acceptable” behavior. The highly accomplished high frequency cast and crew admirably accomplish their mission of spreading mirth with this madcap musical, its joyful, wistful songs composed by Susan Justin (she got her start by composing music for movies by schlock meister Roger Corman, producer/director of sci fi masterpieces like 1958’s War of the Satellites), who co-wrote Come Get Maggie’s lyrics with Frolov.

As the title character, Melanie Neilan puts her ballerina background to good use (the breezy choreography is by Brooke Wendle), along with her chops as an actress who appeared in plays by the renowned Steppenwolf company and on various TV shows, like NCIS: LA. Speaking of which, as Detective Ziskin, Philip Casnoff uproariously steals every scene he’s in (and some he’s not supposed to be in) like a kleptomaniac. He slyly spoofs Film Noir genre conventions, looking like an archetypal hardboiled Sterling Hayden-type of character in one scene, but then playfully proceeds to puncture the balloon of those tropes with, shall we say, the finely honed heel of a stiletto.

Bruce Nozick likewise has lots of fun lampooning militaristic cliches as General Winthrop. I’d swear that at one point, Nozick drolly channeled George C. Scott as General Buck Turgidson in Dr. Strangelove. Like others in the cast, Nozick – a familiar face after appearing in 100-plus TV shows and in Rogue Machine’s stellar drama about the Blacklist/McCarthy era, Finks – has multiple roles in Maggie.

As Kwee, the extraterrestrial who has a penchant for Stetsons, Nicole LeDoux, whose theater credits include Coeurage Ensemble’s Rent, performs with a twinkle in her eye. Regarding Jacquelin Lorraine Schofield’s incarnation as the imperious leader of the Moms’ Militia and Auntie Ruthie, if you look up the definition of “bossy” in the dictionary, you’ll see her picture there.

The handsome Dennis Renard plays Varex, Maggie’s outer space love interest. The former thesp is Black, while Neilan is Caucasian, but their intergalactic melding harpoons racist anxieties about interracial dating and mating, which pale in comparison to interspecies coupling. And but of course, Frolov, who wrote this romp’s book, provides a clever plot twist regarding the result of their celestial l’amour.

Kudos also go to projection designer Nicholas Santiago and costume designer Dana Rebecca Woods, and in particular to music director Michelle Do, whose live, lively tickling of the ivories throughout the two acts enlivens the onstage action, similar to how pianists’ accompaniment of movies during the silent cinema days enhanced the production with a soundtrack. That’s not to imply that there’s anything silent about this rambunctious production, which boasts a great score joyfully belted out by the cast.

Veteran director/producer Michael Pressman, who co-won two Emmys for producing Picket Fences, strikingly brings all of this merry mayhem together to land safely (if, not exactly, sanely). Rogue Machine has a history of having plays that this edgy, artsy troupe premiered go on to become motion pictures, such as the Oscar-nommed One Night in Miami (BTW, Rogue’s version was far superior to the screen adaptation), and Come Get Maggie would make for a magnificent movie. It contains some universal truths and is really more fun than earthlings and extraterrestrials should be allowed to have. Your humble reviewer urges all fans of live theater to strap on their astronaut boots and make one small step for man and one giant leap for sheer hilarity at the Matrix Theatre. To paraphrase the immortal words of science fiction classics: Take me to your lover!

Come Get Maggie is being performed Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 3:00 p.m. through March 26 at the Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Avenue, L.A., California, 90048. For reservations call (855)585-5185 or


L.A.-based reviewer Ed Rampell co-authored "The Hawaii Movie and Television Book" (see: