Broom Street Theater
Superhero Boogie (through April 13 at Broom Street Theater) brings to life the stories of eight superheroes, pulling material from their glory days of comic books on tape. The play examines the line between childhood and adulthood, sticking to the audio script just enough to highlight the protagonists' adventures but also the nonsensical plots and scientific references that have long since lost their modern sheen.
Take, for example, a line from Superman. "I can be there within 30 minutes!" he shouts into a landline before taking off at top speed to stop a mad scientist from building a supercomputer. He has no idea how impatient people can be in 2013.
Rob Matsushita, the writer and director, gives a disclaimer at the start of the play: He tells the audience that none of the songs or stories have been changed for the sake of comedy. Everything is original, he emphasizes, before stepping back to let the recordings take the spotlight. Most of the play is lip synched to albums from the '70s that are rife with political incorrectness and classic theme songs. Choreographed dance routines and practiced facial expressions more than make up for the slim number of lines. Every raised eyebrow and snarl counts in this play, and the actors deliver. Quick costume changes, coordinated skits and refined timing all hint at hours of rehearsal.
Each sound on the record is acted out, down to the clink of a teacup and the crumple of paper. Matsushita takes full advantage of the imperfect translation from audio to visual though, transforming natural pauses on the recording into awkward will-they-kiss moments on stage and pairing the sound of Wonder Woman flying through the air with an actress in a Halloween costume lying on top of the bleachers. Spare props only add to the humor, with drumsticks doubling as police batons and telephone receivers that are shaken to show that they are ringing.
All seven cast members get a chance to play superhero, but Kelly Maxwell stands out as the show's host. Occasionally tapping in to play a role in a story, she somehow never breaks character as the cigarette smoking, suit-wearing, deep-voiced narrator of the night. Superhero Boogie can feel heavy when she tears down the fourth wall to reminisce and comment on the heroes, but her presence ties together the stories and reminds the audience that this is a night to be enjoyed and not taken too seriously.
"There are some things you love as a kid. When you grow up, you recognize their flaws. It does not mean you stop loving them," Maxwell says. So it is with Superhero Boogie and its toy guns, cross-dressing and bad puns. There's no question that this show is silly, but you'll love it anyway.