Review: Trek in the Park's "The Trouble with Tribbles"

Atomic Arts completes its five-year "mission" with a live recreation of one of Star Trek's best/worst episodes.

By Jonathan Frochtzwajg August 5, 2013

If you remember the Shatner-narrated title sequence that opened most episodes of Star Trek, you’ll recall that the starship Enterprise’s mission—“to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations,” yada yada yada—was only ever a five-year one. So, too, the mission of Trek in the Park, theater company Atomic Arts’ annual series of live recreations of classic Star Trek episodes. In 2009, the company, under the direction of siblings Amy and Adam Rosko, launched the enterprise with a staging of the episode “Amok Time” in Woodlawn Park. Over the next three years, Trek in the Park’s audiences grew into the four-digit range, requiring the productions to move from Woodlawn Park to Cathedral Park, and drew notice from the likes of National Public Radio and Portlandia. This month, Atomic Arts completes its mission with performances every weekend of one of Trek’s best/worst episodes, 1967’s “The Trouble with Tribbles.”

The gist of “Tribbles” is this: Kirk, Spock, Scotty, and the rest of the Enterprise crew respond to a distress call from a deep-space station and find, to Kirk’s great pique, that the “emergency” is agricultural in nature. The station is near Sherman’s Planet, a world which the Federation and the Klingon Empire are, basically, contesting the development rights to, and Quadrotriticale, the only Earth grain that will grow on the planet, is essential to the Federation’s claim. When the undersecretary of agriculture for the sector demands that Kirk (played by Atomic Arts co-artistic director Adam Rosko) detail crewmembers to guard shipments of Quadrotriticale bound for Sherman’s Planet, the captain agrees only after Starfleet Command backs the undersecretary up. But when Klingons arrive at the station and suspiciously request permission to board for totally un-Klingonlike shore leave, the Federation brass’s concerns start to look more valid.

Meanwhile, a kind of freelance rarities trader arrives at the station peddling tribbles, cute, calming, featureless furballs. (Atomic Arts crowdsourced its tribbles, posting a pattern for making the props on its website and asking that they be dropped off at a Excalibur Comics. The company ultimately received thousands of the “creatures.”) The trader gives one to Lieutenant Uhura, and the little beast seems harmless enough—until it starts reproducing so rapidly that its offspring overrun the Enterprise bridge. Pests though they turn out to be, the tribbles’ vocal dislike for Klingons ends up being the key to resolving the conflict over Sherman’s Planet…

Trek in the Park's "The Trouble with Tribbles"
Cathedral Park
Thru Aug 25, Sat & Sun at 5 

Tip: The 5 p.m. start-time can make for a warm viewing experience. Come early to snag a shady spot, and bring sun protection.

Atomic Arts’ recreation of “The Trouble with Tribbles,” like the preceding four productions from the theater company, isn’t going (or at least isn’t going very hard) for professionalism. Indeed, Trek in the Park’s amateurishness is an important part of its charm, and of a piece with the campiness of its source material. At times, the nonprofessional performances render the show a little lifeless, and more than one line is lost to the spotty sound engineering. These foibles can, however, easily be forgiven, because they remind us what, at its heart, Trek in the Park is: just a bunch of regular people who had a passion and boldly took it where no man had gone before. If that’s not quintessentially Portland, I don’t know what is.

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