Thursday, May 15, 2008

Colorful World

Photo/Amanda Schwab

The first act of Colorful World is the slipshod origin movie, a comic book trapped in exposition. The second act, however, connects the plots and hams up the action and acting. In this, it's not as successful as last year's similarly themed Men of Steel, but it does manage to tap into fan worship and the human consequences of superheroes, from the dangers of vigilantism and the despair and disillusionment that brings to humanity, to the commercial usage of the Alliance of Champions (think of a trademarked and low-budget Super Friends), to the military jingoism brought about by their Overman (a more literal translation of Übermensch). "Superman is real," brags a newscaster, "and he is American!"

James Comtois's Colorful World is too colorful: it suffers from an overexposure to the full spectrum of graphic novels that inspired him, from the gritty action of Frank Miller's The Dark Knight to Alan Moore's seminal "think piece" on so-called heroes, Watchmen. He leaps bravely into the thick of things: a Punisher-like "The Peacekeeper" (Ben VandenBoom), unable to live with the wetwork action he did with the military, commits suicide, leading his friend, the invulnerable Overman (Patrick Shearer), to question his own actions. But rather than follow him, the action jumps to a Bruce Wayne-type businessman, Jeffrey Michaels (Abe Goldfarb), who now suffers from the delusions of grandeur of his persona, Ramses. Again, the action splits as we watch the mundane epilogue to Karen's career as the sexy Tigress (Jessi Gotta), a girl who seeks to relive her fame by basking in the adoration of fans, ordinary guys like Guy (Mac Rogers). And, as if that weren't enough, the scenes flashback or turn into monologues that largely serve to deliver more exposition. There are a few moments of action, well choreographed by Qui Nguyen and Alexis Black, and a some excitable moments from Goldfarb and Rogers, but it isn't until the end of the first act, when Overman begins to shed his dispassionate mask, that we start to get interested in this world.

The first act, then, had too much of the gaudy Stan Lee superficiality and exuberance of the "golden age," and suffered from too much information (the video interludes took longer than the scene changes). But the second act, having burnt through most of the non sequiturs both in jokes and plot ("I won't be able to have sexual intercourse with you. The Pentagon has reason to believe that my sperm is toxic."), quickly gets on track, with anti-heroes that put our heroes in a moral and mortal dilemma. There are twists, of course, but more important, we see the results of such hellish good intentions. It's a bit rushed, particularly in the doomed romance of Johnny Patriot (Christopher Yustin) and the repressed Ramses, but at least the action now builds toward the conclusion we've all been waiting for.

I can't blame a self-proclaimed fanboy like James for getting a little overexcited in this foray into comic books; I only wish that more of that excitement carried over into the play. As a director, and as James's Nosedive collaborator, Pete Boisvert would do well to find ways to focus more of that energy into the work, and away from the long pauses, dead riffs, and awkward lighting that keep pulling attention away from that enthusiastic heart. Ah, well. Excelsior!

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