Fringe Reviews, Day 7

I didn't really enjoy Tommy either.

Last night I went to a little showing of Superhero LIVE!, a "spoken word rock opera comic book". This, dewey-eyed proponents will tell you, is the heart of the Fringe festival. Not one man plays that you could see at the Citadel, not performances of a George Bernard Shaw work by local troupes, but going to a bar (The Attic in this case) and watching the sort of thing nobody would ever be able to do anywhere else. Well, some ya win...

When something is supposed to be melodramatic and over the top, can you really fault the acting? They certainly are trying. Playwright Aaron Talbot stars as "Superhero" -- so dubbed even before he gets any superpowers at all -- and he has two basic looks: angry animated Jack Nicholson in The Shining look, and sad and tender talking with father look. The first, though only seen briefly, looks convincing. The second needs some work.

Alison Boyce plays "Beautiful Scientist", and...well, how can I put this delicately? She doesn't quite meet the physicality implied by the character's name? She does have a singing voice thats quite good (apparently the only actor who does, as nobody else sings), but her facial expressions are limited to befuddlement.

Shady Character is played by Michael Cowie, who pulls off a Lex Luthor-look fairly well, and...well, he looks and sounds evil, so of course he is. The biggest problem...oh, wait.


...the biggest problem is that at the end of the play, it turns out that Shady Character is actually fighting for the right cause the whole time, and when he loses we get the sense that, well, the wrong guy won.


Finally, Murray Utas plays Al, Superhero's dead father. He's a cross between Hugh Dillon and Wolverine, and while he's the one person with the voice that fits the character, he's never given much for emotional range. Ah well.

The plot? Well, it moves along, and I say moves along generously for a play that starts at 6pm and ends at 8:10 (including a 15 minute intermission). There could surely be some chopping and editing going on in there. An obvious candidate is the make-work project banter between the live musicians (John Davidge and Shaun McKee) and between them and Superhero. It ends up taking you out of the moment, as it were. It's like watching a movie with somebody who keeps pausing to comment on it.

The other complaint, particularly in the first act, is the lack of action. Comic books are action-based media, and seeing 2 1/2 fights the entire show seems a little wrong. In general, the cast all were trying very very hard, and from that it was clear. It was just that the material didn't give them enough to work with.

Update, 3:58pm: I had forgotten to mention earlier that Superhero LIVE! has a website with episodic podcasts, if you're interested. (Beautiful Scientist, it is noted, is played by a different actress). Check them out here.