Friday, August 10, 2012

Comic Con Con Comedy

Photo Credit:  Theater Company of Lafayette

CP Stancich  (scene changes and “Comic Con Finale”)

Clyde James Aragón (“Gila Monster Man to the Rescue!”)

Madge Montgomery  (“American Way”)

Emily Golden (“Bombicon”)

Erich Toll (“Hero Sandwich”)

Karen Goodwin (“The Bat Who 
Loved Me”)

Sheri Flannery Verrilli (“Joisey?!! SURE!”)

Ryan Armstrong (“The Adventures of Super Duck and Team Apocalypse”)

Audrey Gab (“Light Speed Dating”)

Brett Hursey (“Kung-Foolery”)

David Vardeman (“Weird Saga”)

Michael D. O’Hara (“To Boldly Go”)

David Golden (“Rhaptonstall Lives!!!”)

Venue:  Mary Miller Theater, 300 East Simpson Street, Lafayette, CO

CompanyTheater Company of Lafayette, Lafayette CO

Date of Performance:  Thursday, August 9, 2012

Running Time:  2 hours, 25 minutes (includes 15 minute intermission).

It could have been Halloween in August at the Mary Miller Theater.  Super Heroes, Wonder Vixens, “Bull Steer,” Lois Lane, Princess Leia, Catwoman, Retractor, Soap Woman, Termite Boy, Jersey Devil…well, I think you get the idea. 

“Comic Con Con Comedy” (CCCC for short) is the result of The Theater Company of Lafayette (TCL) writing competition.  TCL puts out an annual request for scripts based on a specific theme.  CCCC was developed from more than 240 sketches submitted by playwrights from all over the country.  The basic requirements were that the sketches must deal with a Comic Convention theme and run for 2-8 minutes each.  Each of the 13 sketches and 7 scene changes are stand-alone performances, unrelated to what came before and what comes after.  That is a creative twist with both benefits and risks.
I have to admit that I’m not a comic book fan, nor am I likely to show up in a Darth Vader costume at any event, anywhere,  but CCCC forced me to look differently at those who are comic book convention fans.

The show opens with a scene change (I know…that would seem unnecessary).  We meet the “Gaffer,” who, one could say, sets a sufficiently goofy tone for all that follows. 
Gila Monster Man to the Rescue!” follows the Gaffer, and if you don’t have flashbacks to the “Star Wars” cantina scene, I’m guessing you never saw the film.  And the comparison to a science fiction classic is meant as a compliment.  The assorted characters (“Gila Monster Man,” E-Ray Beam Girl,” “Giant Eyeball” guy, “Incredible Flying Grub”) on the stage are nearly as creative, crazy, and scary as the ones created by George Lucas, and they’re definitely funnier. 

Photo Credit:  Jeremy Papasso/
CCCC succeeds, sometimes with goofy stories and characters, and other times with solid, poignant moments.  For example, “Hero Sandwich” needs little humor to make a serious point.  Erik Wilkins’s alter ego is “Bull Steer,” a caped crusader with the big “BS” on his chest.  As he admits to Lois (Heather Kaskinen), he’s not really a Super Hero, he just plays one at conventions.  Kaskinen, who plays her role with equal parts of confusion and fascination, asks BS what he does in real life.  When he admits he’s “just a teacher”, she’s impressed.  Who are the real Super Heroes in our midst?  Teachers, it turns out, are on the list, and rightly so.  Wilkins and Kaskinen make “Hero Sandwich” one of the high points in CCCC.

It’s not difficult to play Comic Conventions for laughs; the humor almost writes itself.  What’s difficult for the playwrights is to add substance to the humor.  Like “Hero Sandwich,” the “Light Speed Dating” episode gets some easy laughs, but makes a point in the process. Rachel Ricca does an eye popping belly dance that will forever change how I remember “Star Wars.”  But it’s not the sexy Leia who gets the date; it’s Mary (Lisa Morse-Moore) who has a special appeal.  She’s a normal person, and in the crazy CCCC alternate reality, a normal person stands out…in a good way.  It’s the moments of substance that elevate CCCC above just being a comedy; it’s also a sensitive look at those who have the courage to dress up in their fantasies.

Given that the 13 playwrights did not collaborate at all, CCCC can also seem somewhat disconnected at times.  Kirsten Jorgensen-Smith and Lisa Lowrey deliver two of the best performances in the production with “Weird Saga.”  It’s funny, it’s provocative, and it’s convincing.  If any of the sketches could be expanded into a full script, I’d vote for “Weird Saga.”  But it just didn’t seem to fit with the rest of the script. 

American Way” was another disconnect for me.  I know just enough Spanish to get a little bit of the dialog in both languages, but I didn’t get enough humor or substance from either version to link up “American Way” with the theme. 

Saving the best for last, the “Comic Con Finale” features the only music in the show.  It brings 28 actors (I think that may be everybody in the company) onto a very small stage for a rousing mash-up of the Beatles “Oh Blah Di Oh Blah Da.”  Not only is it a toe tapping, finger snapping, sing along end to the show, but it also gives Abby Read a chance to cut loose.  It’s not easy to stand out on a stage with 27 other performers, but Abby makes it look easy.  She’s fun, she’s goofy, and you won’t be able to take your eyes off her.  The finale is a great ending to an evening filled with fun, laughs, and Abby dancing “like no one’s watching.”

Comic Con Con Comedy” is on a very short run; two weekends and its gone.  If you like innovative, creative and risky ventures, make sure you get a ticket.  You’ll be supporting live theater and new talent.  And trust me.  You don’t have to be a comic book fan to have a great time.

This show runs through Sunday, August 19, 2012.  Appropriate for all ages.  Get in the spirit of the show; wear your favorite Super Hero costume.  You might even win a prize.

Directors:  Brainard Starling, Kirsten Jorgensen Smith, Madge Montgomery, Vonalda Utterback, Brian Miller.  

Set Design/Construction:  Chris Pash

Costume Design:  Julie Vance

Lighting Design:  Brian Miller

Keyboards:  Howard Lee Smith

Glenn Spitz, Erik Wilkins, Abby Read, Mitchell Dow, Pam Bennett, Rachel Cohen-Birzer, Tania Guzman, Doug Hawkins, Kirsten Jorgensen Smith, Heather Kaskinen, Fayth Krause, Dorothy Lee, Lisa Lowrey, Lisa Morse-Moore, Susanne Neswadi, Rachel Ricca, Artemus Samarzia-Martin, Fred Sandal, Richard Walter Sotelo, Brainard Starling, Vonalda Utterback, Ash Vanscoyic, Seth Whitehair-Hardyway.

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