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The Superhero and his Charming Wife:

All-In at Highways Performance Space

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The Superhero and his Charming Wife purports to be “inspired by archetypes and dreams” presented in the style of “an adventure comic book”; and this description of the new production by the Not Man Apart Physical Theatre Ensemble (NMA) lives up to that claim.

Sitting through the evening, written and directed by NMA associate artistic director Aaron Hendry and choreographed by Michelle Broussard now at the Highway Performance Space I was consistently harkening back to an actual graphic novel, The Watchmen by writer Alan Moore in collaboration with artist Dave Gibbons, and colorist John Higgins.

Superhero shares much common ground with Watchmen which was the only graphic novel included on Time magazine’s “All-Time 100 Greatest Novels” list in 2005.

Both are amazingly ambitious in conception, both reflect great talent in execution, both consist of brilliant parts that are strangely at odds with the overall intent, and both are maelstroms of ideas and sources of inspiration that nearly overcome an audience in the fury of their delivery.

There is a classic story told of Orson Welles.

One New York critic writing of Welles’ all black production of Macbeth set in Haiti made the statement that “Mr. Welles put everything on stage except for the kitchen sink.”

At the opening of the next evening’s performance of Macbeth, the house lights dimmed, the curtain parted and a single spot illuminated on center stage – a kitchen sink.

I could easily write the same of Mr. Hendry – and would not be at all surprised by a similar response.

Mr. Hendry gives us quite the presentation: Campbell’s hero’s journey cloaked as fairy tale masquerading as a graphic novel affecting to be a Greek myth while pretending to be a D.C. comic.

Mr. Hendry opens strong with The Demon (Paul Turbiak) expounding on the paradox of Schrödinger’s cat.

Now hard as it may be to imagine, the formalism of quantum mechanics is not my strong suit, so I was puzzled if Mr. Hendry was challenging the physicist Erwin Schrödinger’s assumption or as often happens misinterpreting it.

Schrödinger’s paradox was intended to refute a 1935 article by Albert Einstein, Boris Podolsky, and Nathan Rosen who theorized that within the nature of quantum superposition’s multiple combinations of possible outcomes could exist simultaneously.

If this goes over your head then join the club.

However it really is unnecessary to understand the theoretical concept here or even to know if Mr. Hendry does because Turbiak is so dynamic, so supremely entertaining that he draws you into the piece and wins your commitment to stay the course.

“I am a demon,” he informs the audience, “This is a box.”

Though, like his presentation of Schrödinger’s paradox, I also find myself wondering about Mr. Hendry’s designation of Turbiak’s character as “The Demon” for he certainly functions much more in the realm of “daemon.”

What follows this preamble are the trials and tribulations of a superhero (Jones Welsh) whose charming wife (Joanna Bateman – originally) is in a constant state of flux (and portrayed thereafter by Laura Covelli and Courtney Munch).

Mr. Hendry claims the seed of Superhero came to him as a dream, and the evening reflects the disjointed and fantastical nature of that inspirational source.

In between our superhero fighting crime (in the form of Alina Bolshakova as the Master Criminal and Anne-Marie Talmadge as the Dark Creeper) the scenes shift from an intriguing dance number representing some dark and amorphous presence seeking to devour all, to the absurdity of a superhero stuck waiting for the subway because his wife has taken his crime fighting-mobile to run errands; from a restaurant with a waiter (Zachary Reeve Davidson) who dreams of becoming a superhero but is unable to help a co-worker (Sydney Mason) with a bad burn except for constantly repeating she shouldn’t put butter on it, to a Dirty Witch (Jessica Carlsen) who pursues our hero while threatening him with a pair of children’s shoes and demanding “Let him out!”

All of this impinges on our superhero who has stated the nature of his calling as, “I take disorder and straighten it out.”

Somewhere there seems to be hints that a woman’s emotional freedom may be her weakness while a man’s steadfastness might be his prison that “Heartbreak is not the loss of love, but the loss of belief,” and that under every pile of dirty laundry a super villainess lurks.

Does our hero manage to make order from this chaos?

Does Mr. Hendry?

Both are questionable.

So one shouldn’t approach The Superhero and his Charming Wife with the expectations of any shattering insights; but taken as a wildly entertaining and at times shockingly exciting rollercoaster ride, then The Superhero and his Charming Wife definitely qualifies as an E-Ticket.

Superhero and his Charming Wife.jpgAnd a quick side note of a personal nature if I may; back in my heady youth, The Highways Performance Space was firmly entrenched in my consciousness. Back in the eighties, Highways was part playground, part laboratory, part safe house for the swirling talents of the Los Angeles creative community and provided a showcase for the best and the boldest which that community had to offer.

Somehow, over the years, I had forgotten the wonders and magic I had found there, but attending The Superhero and his Charming Wife brought them back to me with a potency that quivered my knees.

I promise I won’t forget those memories again.

So check out Highways Performance Space when you check out The Superhero and his Charming Wife.

I bet neither will disappoint.

♦   ♦   ♦

The Superhero and his Charming Wife 
runs
Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays — Now thru May 15
– Fridays at 8:30 p.m. — April 15, 22, 29, May 6, 13
– Saturdays at 8:30 p.m. — April 16, 23, 30, May 7, 14
– Sundays at 3:30 p.m. — May 8, 15 ONLY

WHERE: Highways Performance Space @ 18th St. Arts Center
1651 18th St., Santa Monica, CA 90404
1/2 block north of Olympic Blvd.

FOR Tickets and Additional Information
PHONE: 310-315-1459
WEBSITE: Highways Performance Space

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Written by

An award-winning L.A. playwright and rabble-rouser of note who has hoisted glasses with Orson Welles, been arrested on three continents and once beat up Charlie Manson. His first play, Among the Vipers was a semi-finalist in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition and was featured in the Carnegie-Mellon Showcase of New Plays. It was produced at the NPT Theater in Ashland, Oregon and Los Angeles’ celebrated Odyssey Ensemble Theatre. His following play, “The Little Boy Who Loved Monsters” was produced at The Hollywood Actors Theater, where he earned praise from the Los Angeles Times for his “…inordinately creative writing.” The play went on to numerous other productions including Berlin’s The Black Theatre under the direction of Rainer Fassbinder who wrote in his program notes of Kearney, “He is a skilled playwright, but more importantly he is a dangerous one.” Ernest Kearney has worked as literary manager or as dramaturge for among others The Hudson Theater Guild, Nova Diem and the Odyssey Ensemble Theatre, where he still serves on the play selection committee. He has been the recipient of two Dramalogue Awards and a finalist or semi-finalist three times in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition. His work has been performed by Michael Dunn, Sandra Tsing Loh, Jack Colvin and Billy Bob Thornton, and to date, either as playwright or director, he has upwards of a hundred and thirty productions under his belt, including a few at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater as puppeteer. After a wild and misspent youth, which lasted well into middle age, Kearney has settled down and is focusing on his writing, as well as living happily ever after with his lovely wife Marlene. Ernest's stage reviews and social essays can be found at TheTVolution.com and workingauthor.com. Follow him on Facebook.

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