Wanda Worthington (Lizzie Pepper), a former World War II WAC pilot, finds herself bored being just a housewife to her pompous, overbearing psychiatrist husband. Inspired by the heroines of the comic books and armed with jiu jitsu, Wanda transforms herself into All American Girl, liberated crime-fighter.
All in all, a fun premise for a play. Throw in some Nazis with Hitler’s brain, a ballet-dancing, morally ambiguous capitalist called the Black Swan, a cross-dressing super hero named the Scarlet Skunk, the nefarious Doctor Mindshrinker, and more minions and henchmen than you can shake a stick at, and you have the makings of an exciting, silly evening of theatre.
In its latest incarnation at Theater for the New City, however, Kryptonite Hearts by Charles Battersby, fails to live up to that comic potential. While Battersby’s play is amusing and certainly original, this production is uneven and not terribly polished. Some of this, no doubt, has to do with opening weekend jitters. The technical flubs - a missed cue, a long scene change, timing that seems off – will be ironed out as the show continues its run. More difficult to deal with are the stylistic inconsistencies in the production. The play goes to great lengths to invoke the serial radio dramas and comic books of the 1930s and ‘40s. Unfortunately, the actors are not all on the same page. Some of the actors, most notably Philip Emeott as the Narrator, Stephanie Bush in various roles, Jason Griffith as Dr. Worthington, and Battersby, pulling double duty by appearing as the Scarlet Skunk, seem to grasp the correct style and play it with gusto. Their work suggests the rugged guys and tough broads that this show calls for. Other actors in the show seem uncomfortable with this style and end up either underplaying their roles or going so far over the top as to lose all believability.
Some of this could have been mitigated with the use of period costumes and scenery that evoke the comic books which inspired the play, since the actors’ environment and clothing can affect how they present themselves on stage. Unfortunately, the dearth of period costumes and Tim McMath’s minimal sets do little to add to the illusion of period, and this is the kind of show that would benefit from those extra details.
Battersby has written a cute and clever play, which despite the problems with this production still provides its share of laugh-out-loud moments. With luck, a future incarnation will provide an even better showcase for it.
(Kryptonite Hearts also features Jere Williams, Walter Hoffman, Lauren Strachan, Dan Hernandez, and Marissa Tiamfook)
Copyright 2007 Byrne Harrison
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