Monday, May 16, 2016

The Superhero and His Charming Wife (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

Due to scheduling problems, I did not see this work until it had but one more performance scheduled. This frustrates me so much, because to share wondrous experiences is a major reason for writing these reviews.  The Superhero and His Charming Wife certainly qualifies!

Not merely because the physicality of the production proved amazing (although it certainly was).  Given the genre it explores, that of superheroes, small wonder so many scenes dealt with deliciously staged combat.   Hero (Jones Welsh) in particular did a series of wonderful dance/combats throughout, nearly all with women not coincidentally.  Including, yes, his charming wife Julie (Joanna Bateman).

What most impressed me about this play written and directed by Aaron Hendry proved not the awesome choreography by Michelle Broussard, but rather how it treated the whole subject.

I have a friend baffled by the popularity of superheroes, viewing the whole trend as an example of our nation's immaturity.  Not sure I disagree, although seems to be the best of the genre often involves an attempt to move forward into maturity.  Is not this one of the functions of myth?

The Superhero and His Charming Wife sends our central character on a Hero's Journey with all the mind-blowing wonder of the best mythic quests from The Mahabarata to the Popal-Vu.  Hero has great strength, but needs understanding--making him Samson, Heracles, Thor and a dozen others.  But of course in a modern age he seeks not a Golden Fleece nor a Holy Grail.  Rather, as a certain Demon (Paul Turbiak) explains to us at the very start, his question will lead him to a box, at the heart of that most modern of paradoxes, involving a feline described by Shroedinger.

Like all myth, everything managed both strangeness and familiarity.  The Master Criminal (Alina Bolshakova-Roldan) whom Hero does not at first recognize (blind as Oedipus in his way).  The Dark Creeper (Anne-Marie Davidson).  Even his wife Julie (Laura Covelli) who seems different somehow.  Seems is right.  Perhaps he sees her as she truly is for the first time. 


Ultimately the Quest must be one for identity, which by its very nature terrifies, especially in modern times.  We lack so many of the rituals with which to give us that--so a Waiter (Zahary Reeve Davidson) wants to become a superhero and tells a Waitress (Sydney Mason) to get out lest a job devour her hopes.  With then is Julie (Courtney Munch) in terror of what she's lost and pretending so hard she's forgotten she was doing it.

Does the Witch (Jessica Carlsen) know the way?  Does she know how to find what others are seeking?  Maybe.  Or maybe she only sees part of the answer and it has driven her mad.  But why?  Because it was not her answer perhaps?

We define ourselves by our jobs, but our enemies, by our loved ones, by what others perceive about us.  Hero in this play finds himself forced past all of that.  How horrifying!  How glorious!  But in the end his strength of body proves secondary, at best.  Sublime but not particularly useful at the quest's final moment.  Just as physical courage helped him arrive, but will not serve when confronted by the Box.

Let us say I'm not surprised Hendry based his play on a dream.  And for the record, I hope NMA (Not Man Apart) Physical Theatre Ensemble mounts this amazing work once more.

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