Sunday, April 24, 2016

The SuperHero and his Charming Wife by Aaron Hendry

Jones Welsh

By Joe Straw

“The play is a dream I once had.” – Aaron Hendry

That’s the problem with dreams. They usually start in the middle and end at the most inopportune time - breaking up before all questions are answered.      

This dream is one of beauty, darkness, frustration, befuddlement, and love from Aaron Hendry, an artist that remembers the details, the colors, and the sounds of his dreams and then decides to ride the wind of change and create performance art.  - Narrator

NMA Not Man Apart Physical Theatre Ensemble present The SuperHero and his Charming Wife written and directed by Aaron Hendry at The Highways Theatre through May 15, 2016.

Performance art has a dream like quality, you make of it what you will, gathering the impressions, and hope at the end of the night, a moment has made an aesthetically pleasing or significant changed in oneself.  

This dream has a lot of colors, superhero colors, except for that single white box. That white box is for those of you who have a dreadful curiosity.  Lifting the lid will answer all of your questions – and possibly be the answer to your dream.  But, opening the box will also have ramifications that may break your enigmatic tranquility if you thought about such things.

Dreams, and performance art, are always open to interpretation, so here goes.

There is blackness, a dark side, of someone (a villain) in need of the contents in a white box. Some will let it lie (SuperHero), and not break the lid.  Curiosity is not one of SuperHero’s super strengths.

The Demon (Paul Turbiak) tells us what’s in the white box and the answers may be combinations of things.  Peek into the inter contents of the white box for your own special nightmare, or bliss. 

How are you feeling right now? And how will you feel after you open the box?

The dancing begins, movement from one scene to the next.  (Cue action music.)  Pretty girls in dreams dancing, moving, bouncing, forcing an idea, beautifully choreographed by Michelle Broussard.  (In fact all of the dance numbers were wonderfully executed and gave lift to this flyless flummoxed SuperHero.) The dancers are humans living a cloistered existence in the city.  All are in the need of saving.  

SuperHero (Jones Welsh) runs outside in his pajama shorts, looking like an everyday man, except with muscles.  He also has the ability to catch a newspaper with one hand, eyes half closed, with little light, in the early morning.

But, now someone needs help in another apartment, a The Dirty Evil Witch (Jessica Carlsen) a woman screaming, sounding like someone is knocking her senseless and yet SuperHero is powerless to help her.  He does not have the ability to fly, his sense of super hearing is nil, and he doesn’t have the mental capacity to understand human emotions.  Scratch all of that super hero stuff.   

What planet is he from?

His wife Julie (Joanna Bateman) closes the door on him for which he does not have the capacity to break in. No laser vision, or even a pick to jimmy the lock.

Being a SuperHero and unable to open the door in any fashion would do a number on anyone’s masculinity.  When the Charming Wife (Joanna Bateman) (who is not so charming) lets him into the apartment, she is not too concern about the screaming from the apartment next door (wives!). 

Hero shuts the door in a state of befuddlement.  No, wait a minute, he is always in a constant state of befuddlement and things get worse when his wife leaves the room and comes back another person.  Not quite the same blue nightgown she was wearing but the same Julie (in name only) just a different looking Julie (Laura Covelli).

SuperHero, in his state, doesn’t recognize Julie, in her state. After sorting it out, or not sorting it out SuperHero goes out to save the world.  But, he has to take the subway because Julie needs the car.

Alina Bolshakova-Roldan and Jones Welsh

And now, leaping over rooftops, jumping over building The Master Criminal (Alina Bolshakova-Roldan) jumps on a subway and rides the rest of the way to her destination.  SuperHero takes his seat on the subway and doesn’t know that she’s a master criminal; he doesn’t have the slightest whiff.  He’s just really ashamed that, well, the only reason he’s there is that he doesn’t have the car today, to fight crime, and to buy groceries, etc.,

The Master Criminal has problems of her own.

“My wife took my car once…drove off a bridge….out onto a trash boat.  I love my car.” – The Master Criminal

Back at home The Dark Creeper (Anne-Marie Talmadge) breaks into SuperHero’s apartment and looks for the box.  They battle it out in the apartment SuperHero gets the best of The Dark Creeper (Another exceptional battle scene by Michelle Broussard!) and that’s when Julie comes home and sees The Dark Creeper hidden near the bed, and, thinking the worse, leaves in disgust.

Generally Santa Monica is cool at night.  The Highway Theatre has two fans, stage right.  If it is hot, sit low and stage right, because it is very hot in the theatre.

Jessica Carlsen and Courtney Munch

One doesn’t generally speak about he second act but the opening number is mind blowing.  It is the story of The Waitress (Sydney Mason) who takes out the trash behind the restaurant.  She spills a little bit on the side of her leg, wipes it off, throws the trash into the bin, and that is when the trash comes alive.  Wow! Well worth the price of admission.

Yes, it was a satisfying night of theatre, performance art, not really something you’d expect to have a beginning, middle and an end.  Aaron Hendry, the director, tries to make it a cohesive whole but when the real Julie (spoiler alert) comes out and says something to the contrary that leaves us in a state of abstruse speculations! 

And so we have it.

The writing, the book, may not be for everyone.  Smartly written by Hendry, but the SuperHero is a constant stage of befuddlement and never really comes out of it. If you like conflict resolutions, then you may not get a clear picture of that.  But, if you see this as performance art then you will get whatever you want, and that’s all right.

Paul Turbaik was The Demon and did very well in a monologue that could have been cut in half and gotten the same point across.

Jones Welsh was Hero who couldn’t fly, and didn’t have laser vision but managed to physically handle the villains around him.  But boy, was he in a constant state of confusion, never breaking out, until maybe the last moment.  This is a role where you really want to character to change, and have some sort of resolution. Nice fight scenes.

Joanna Bateman was Julie (well one of three).  Actually the only one who got credit for being Julie.

Laura Covelli played The Changed.

Alina Bolshakova-Roldan was The Master Criminal and had a very nice number before getting on the subway.

Anne-Marie Talmadge was the Dark Creeper.  I don't think I ever saw her face. But, there was an incredible fight sequence.  

Sydney Mason did a fine job as the Waitress – really not sure where that character was going.

Courtney Munch was The Hunted and has an extremely good look, slightly rough and rugged, but very photogenic. Her manner on stage was specific and her objective focused.

Jessica Carlsen and Jones Welch

Jessica Carlsen was the Evil Dirty Witch and one hasn't a clue as to what the character was all about - possibly the sound in a dream, that's loud, that you don't quite get. Still, there was a lot of emotional angst in her scenes.  

Nicely produced by Aaron Hendry, Jones Welsh, and Laura Covelli.

Other members of the crew are as follows:

Ashton Williams – Stage Manager
Emily Zehr – Costume Design
Matt Mikulka – Lighting Design
Kyle Jackson – Sound Design/Composer
Hannah Beavers – Video Design
Josh Worth – Poster Art
Darren Carter – Technical Director
Susan Gordon – Publicist
Paige Elson – Production Intern
Christine Costanza – Graphic Design
Ashley Ekstrum, Caitlin McLaughlin, and Steven Schilling – Additional Art

Run!  And take someone that likes Spiderman, a super hero that has emotional problems.

Highways Performance Space
@18th Street Arts Center
1651 18th Street
Santa Monica, CA 90404
½ block north of Olympic Blvd.

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