Thursday, April 7, 2016

Super Identity Crisis (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

Not ever show is for everyone.  This goes beyond simply a question of genre or style, beyond individual preferences for comedy or drama or musicals, etc.  ZJU's Super Identity Crisis by Magnus MacDomhnail brings this very much to mind.

The play is a parody of super heroes, more in terms of comic books than the movies so popular right now.  More, it takes an almost Rocky Horror-esque twist on its tale of a confrontation between some (kinda sorta) familiar superheroes and supervillains in Singapore.

I should say right now this kind of stuff sounds absolutely fantastic to my ears!  And yet--everyone else in the theatre seemed to be laughing a lot more than I was. Which means maybe you should take my reaction with a grain of salt. Or two.

Credit:  Magnus MacDomhnaill
Personally, I found it hard to enter into the world of the play.  Mostly this is because I still have zero notion what the first scene has to do with the rest of it, other than some of the same overall zaniness.  Essentially the plot seems to involve semi-Spider-man clone Crawler (Patrick Beckstead) and generic uber-tough guy Fist (Joshua Dickinson) paired up against their will by the one-eyed Brigadier Rage (Joseph Jones).  Their mission seems to investigate goings on around some invention by a Dr. Janus (Adam Poisal) desired for some reason by the nefarious Grim Reaper (Donna Jean Siegel).  Rage doesn't think they'll succeed so he dispatches Cod Man (Edward Nyahay) and his sidekick Wonder Boy (Meedo Dapron) as backup.

Meanwhile the Grim Reaper recruits a few minions of his/her own--Dark Dwarf (David Wyn Harris) and Black Box (Isabel Espy).

Oh, and then there's Doctor Melinoe (Taylor C. Baker).  I don't want to give away precisely who she is.  In part because it is confusing.

Credit:  Magnus MacDomhnaill
There's a lot to enjoy or applaud in this show. For one thing, there's some very subversive stuff here, like the truly disturbing "relationship" between Cod Man and Wonder Boy.  Or the way Brigadier Rage really doesn't come across as much of a good guy at all.  I should also say my personal favorite character was Black Box--and not only for the rather adult story behind her name!  I just thought this one of the best acted characters in the show, but then she also got the best villain/hero battle in the play--between herself and Crawler (who gets a phone call from his wife mid-fight).

Much of the set-up was clever, often on many levels.  Plenty of archetypes got played with, for example.  While Crawler is a spin (sorry) on Spider-Man, Fist is a weird avatar of Wolverine + The Comedian + The Punisher + Lobo + Guy Gardner.  A nice tough was giving Brigadier Rage Jedi powers (think about it for a minute).

On the other hand, there just wasn't enough set-up.  More, the pace seemed too frantic, with hardly a pause to get acclimated or to allow us to recover from the previous explosion/scene full of yelling.

Credit:  Magnus MacDomhnaill
But people laughed!  They smiled a whole lot!  And it isn't as if I didn't enjoy myself (just evidently not as much as everyone else in the audience)...  I just think the show needs some work.  Given some workshoping, I think this could end up as a very popular play, one earning a well-deserved niche as a cult favorite.  But it isn't there yet.  So what you get is something full of energy and good ideas, with three or four top-notch performances, and an enthusiasm which overcomes a fair number of problems.

Super Identity Crisis plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8:30pm until April 23, 2016 at Zombie Joes Underground Theatre Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd. (just south of the NoHo sign) North Hollywood CA 91601.

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