Review: “Team of Heroes: Behind Closed Doors” by Alexander Harris. Directed by Jaime Roberts. With Ashley Bagwell, Angela DiMarco, Nik Doner, Ryan Higgins, Jason Sharp, Tracy Leigh, Danielle Daggerty, Sam Hagen, Jana Hutchison and Rachel Jackson as Chaos Theory. Now through May 19, 2012 at the Annex Theatre.
The Annex had a hit last year with “Alecto: Issue 1” their superhero spoof and like all smart entertainment conglomerates, they’ve mounted another entry in their superhero series, only this time it’s not a sequel, but a prequel to the previous play. (And, there’s apparently a real sequel in the works, so “Alecto” will actually be the second play in the trilogy.) “Team of Heroes: Behind Closed Doors” opened this last weekend and I’m sure it will draw in the fans of Annex’s brand of genre driven, pop culture spoofing, fringy theater. Too bad, it’s hugely uneven and inconsistent in tone and entertainment value, handicapped by a script that’s not sure if it’s supposed to be a parody or actually an adaption of a real comic book. It has some cute, funny moments and it has some less cute, dramatic moments and it wildly bops back and forth between the two, which in skillful literary hands, might make for a brilliant night of theater, but Alexander Harris’ structural skills don’t quite meet the mark. You leave the theater largely unsatisfied despite many of the funny performances, clever gags and excellent sound design by Michael White Hayes.
I didn’t see “Alecto” but apparently quite a few other people in the audience had, because they laughed knowingly when “TOH” referenced events/characters yet to come in that play. I don’t know if the tone of “Alecto” was any different than “TOH”; I did have a colleague say to me at intermission that the earlier play had more “special effects”. I really can’t compare the two. “TOH” is an “origins story” and goes back in time to see how the current team formed, and we also get to meet some members of the previous incarnation of the team. There’s nothing wrong with using this plot structure, but it also frequently seems to reference Alan Moore’s classic “Watchmen” mini-series but without putting much of a spin on that material. It’s a little too overly familiar and without much wit or originality. And, the dramatic moments never jibe with the comedic; this play just lurches along from high comedy to high melodrama and frankly, the comedy is far more interesting than the attempts at being profound. Sometimes a spoof, should stay a spoof.
The production is also hurt by some clunky set changes and a general problem of pace. (And, don’t get me started at the odd clunky ending to the first act…) As mentioned above, I admired the sound effects design, but the show could have used more music to help the flow of the set changes. And, there’s quite a bit of video in this show as well, and while some of the pieces are funny, quite a few aren’t that funny and they also don’t always blend well into the rest of the show.
The actors are fine, though there are some awfully good ones in this play who you might accuse of “slumming”. Ashley Bagwell and Angela DiMarco are both highly praised local actors and they’re a bit wasted in their not very large roles…actually, the same could be said of most of this cast including Ryan Higgins and Sam Hagen as some comic Russian villains. They’re all having fun, and they’re frequently very funny, but the hijinks don’t make up for some of the turgidness of the script.
The play naturally focuses on the four main team members and Jason Sharp as “The Cap’n” and Nik Doner as “Shock Wave” are charming as the two Men in Tights with just the right amount of bravado and nonsense to carry the show. The two female superheroes, played by Tracy Leigh as “Madame Mayhem” and Danielle Daggerty as “Miss Dixie” aren’t particularly written to be very nice and neither character is very likeable. The fact that the women are portrayed as jealous bitches is just a wee bit sexist and condescending to the characters and the story. It’s lazy writing.
The real treat of the evening was the main villain, “Chaos Theory”, superbly played with great comic timing by Rachel Jackson who also does double duty as she also enacts Chaos Theory’s Scottish Puppet Henchman/Lover “Randy”. Ms Jackson’s love scene between her own felt covered hand, and herself, was pretty damn brilliant and the main reason to check out this show. I kinda hope the third play in the series is centered on her character…but only if “Randy” returns, as well.
The other main reason to check out this show…the attractive cast is wearing form fitting Lycra for most of the show, and apparently not a lot of undergarments. Male or female; gay or straight: Annex’s “Team of Heroes: Behind Closed Doors” is a treat for fans of camel toe and moose knuckle. And, less of a treat for fans of good spoofy theater.
Who’s It For?
Hardcore Annex Fans who’ve had a few drinks.