Who watches the Watchmen?


Colorful World


Written by James Comtois

Directed by Pete Boisvert

Nosedive Productions

78th Street Theater Lab, 236 W. 78th Street

Equity showcase (through May 31, 2008)

Review by Charles Battersby


In 1985, Alan Moore began work on what he called the Moby Dick of superhero comics.  The result was Watchmen, a 400-page epic that examined the issue of how the real world would react to the existence of a super-human.  Watchmen was no childish fantasy, or simple adventure tale, but rather a magnum opus set in a rich, mature world riddled with subtleties and symbolism.


Playwright James Comtois has openly said that his show Colorful World is based on Moore’s Watchmen, and this is both a good and bad thing.  The good is that Comtois has spectacular source material with which to work.  The bad is that Colorful World comes across as a simplified version of a much greater project. 


Both pieces take place in the recent past, in a world where history unfolded differently.  In Colorful World it is 2005; the World Trade Center is still standing, the Iraq war was a huge success, and electric cars have completely replaced gasoline-powered cars.  All of these differences can be traced back to a moment in the late 1980’s when the American government revealed to the public the existence of Overman (Patrick Shearer), a genuine super-human crime fighter whose powers change society by inspiring Americans and instilling terror in the hearts of our enemies.


The existence of a real, live superman also inspired a series of non-powered, costumed do-gooders, including Ramses (Abe Goldfarb) and Tigress (Jessi Gotta), as well as hero fanboys, like Guy Madison (Mac Rogers).  Over the course of the show, villains are punched, vigilantism is debated, and ultimately a plot to take over the world is revealed.


There’s a lot to enjoy about Colorful World;  Shearer is great as the apathetic, inhuman Overman, and the show is filled with multimedia sequences depicting how popular entertainment and the news media reacts to the superheroes (a high point of this being a commercial for Overtine, a drink mix endorsed by Overman in a disinterested monotone saying simply “You should drink this”). 


Those who’ve read Watchmen will notice more than a few similarities in the above.  Comtois has attempted to distinguish his play from Moore’s work, but the show still follows the plot of Watchmen much too closely, using its famous plot twist, and even taking some bits of dialogue almost verbatim. Comtois’ character of Overman is very similar in character to Watchmen’s Dr. Manhattan (with a pinch of Rorschach thrown in); Tigress has The Silk Spectre’s mother issues, and Ramses is nearly identical to Ozymandias.  The play even opens with a scene featuring a character inspired by The Comedian (renamed The Peacekeeper, as an inside reference to Charlton comics).  Sadly, a character patterned after Watchmen’s objectivist vigilante Rorschach only appears in one brief scene.


Those who have read Watchmen might find Colorful World interesting.  It’s just different enough to offer novelties but, unfortunately, it’s so similar that it will offer no surprises. On the other hand, those who haven’t read Watchmen are probably better off just reading Watchmen, rather than seeing a play based on it.


Box Score:


Writing: 1

Directing: 1

Acting: 1

Sets: 1

Costumes: 2

Lighting/Sound: 2


Copyright 2008 by Charles Battersby


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