By Jonathan Brady
Directed by Mark Steven Robinson
Midtown International Theatre Festival
Raw Space Theatre L
529 W. 42nd St. (279-4200/
Equity showcase (closes Aug. 3)
Review by John Chatterton

This play makes the most of an amusing premise: to get his unemployed roommate Ray out of a slump, straight-arrow Kenneth agrees to Ray's madcap scheme. They will become superheroes -- capes, tights, and all (except super powers). (Costumes coordinated by Jeffrey Wallach.)

To become superheroes they must train in martial arts and forensics (in a well-staged passage-of-time sequence). Their goal: to catch the SoHo Strangler, who has eluded police while scoring an escalating body count, mostly of young women walking alone at night. They study the strangler's previous hits and patrol areas that look like likely places for him to turn up.

Of course, things go wrong. Mistaken identities, unhelpful police, disdainful bartenders, hulking thugs -- all are obstacles to be overcome. And what if the strangler, in addition to carrying a piece of rope, happens to have a gun? But soldier on they do against all odds, along the way dropping one-liners and philosophical nuggets (especially from Ray).

Robinson's staging was swift-moving and smart. Peter Postiglione and Mike Doyle, as Ray and Kenneth, were the ideal pair of buddies. Janine Barris made a swift blossoming, worthy of comic books, from glasses-wearing victim to empowered romantic interest. Jeremy Brisiel was amusingly thick as a thug, in addition to his duties as a cop and a male victim. Brian DeSantis had a solid cameo as a bartender.

The set (Andris Krumkalns) was a couple of color-coordinated chairs, a crate, and city-skyline cutouts with embedded lights that glowed for the outdoor scenes and thus provided an efficient shorthand for changes of location. The design also included a projected Heroes logo on the black drapes. Lights (Hideaki Tsutsui) differentiated acting areas and times of day as necessary. Sound included Sinatra songs and the theme, if memory serves aright, from the old TV series The Saint. Fight choreography, by James Riemer, fulfilled an important function flawlessly.

(Also featuring Ellen Rae Huang and Brian Turnbaugh.)

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 2
Acting: 2
Sets: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2002 John Chatterton