Real Life Superhero
bubbles over with thought-provoking and theatrical ideas. There has also been a lot of energy put into putting together a full-fledged production with more enthusiasm than resources. And it almost triumphs over evil.
An intrepid reporter attempts to trace the back story of self-proclaimed superhero Justice, who has been murdered in a back alley and left in a dumpster. Did Justice believe he was a superhero or was he just a man in a costume? Surprisingly, the fetish aspect is completely shied away from, when it actually seems to be the most logical and titillating explanation. The writer, played by Lawrence Stevenson, interviews those who knew Justice and tries to get the story. The expressionistic set and an early scene that riffs on Raymond Chandler typing, but using a laptop, set up a film noir/comic-book style that, alas, the production then abandons, instead straining for a naturalism that doesn't sit well with the long blackouts to move props. It is the less naturalistic elements that work best -- and are the most theatrical -- with a playful expression of inner thoughts conveyed through mimed flashbacks that would pay off emotionally if they were presented in a uniform style to make them believable.
Playwright Steven Jackson's script could use a ruthless rewrite to excise some of the exposition and create some more visual excitement -- the ideas are all there but are buried beneath a few too many declamations and repetitions. For most of the first act the audience was enticed with a thinly veiled metaphor equating the concept of a nighttime superhero with closeted gay nocturnal ramblings. Unfortunately, that subtext is abandoned and the actual truth proves less compelling. An exchange between the writer and a comic-bookstore owner, played by Jamie Anderson, brims over with jokes, comic book lore and questions of identity. A laconic conversation with the beat cop, played by Frank Keenan, who befriended Justice and discovered the body recalls the flavour of an amiable Murder She Wrote
episode. Keith Williams makes a good impression as the best friend, but the script shies away from examining the relationship, and Williams is given an awful lot of dialogue to try to get across with little physical interaction.
Peter Church, who plays Justice and Justice's alter ego, has soulful eyes and a strong presence, and the advantage of less dialogue helps him create a truly heroic figure. Alas, the awkward, lengthy blackouts ruin the sense of surprise that would create a superheroic figure. Real Life Superhero
makes a heroic attempt, and as it settles in, with some slicing and dicing and a sprinkling of theatrical Pow! Zap! Bam! it could become a superplay, as well as a thought-provoking evening at the theatre.
Real Life Superhero runs till Sun, Aug 26 at the Winchester St Theatre, 80 Winchester St. minmargaslightproductions.com
An interview with playwright Steven Jackson
is on our sister site, xtra.ca.