Wednesday, November 9, 2011

'Super Villain Monologues' brings on the bad guys

Posted By on Wed, Nov 9, 2011 at 3:43 PM

SUPERMAX: Christian Danley, Lucky Yates and Alison Hastings
  • Stacey Bode
  • SUPERMAX: Christian Danley, Lucky Yates and Alison Hastings
Dad’s Garage Theatre’s The Super Villain Monologues first seized a stage at the Edmonton Fringe Festival in August of 2010. That may have been the perfect time to see the anthology of diabolical soliloquies, right between the cinematic releases of Despicable Me and Megamind, and part of a wave of flamboyant bad guy spoofs from Adult Swim and elsewhere.

Making its local premiere more than a year later at the Dad’s Garage Top Shelf Theatre, The Super Villain Monologues emerges as an inventive, high-energy show with cleverness to spare, but feels like a step behind the geek cultural zeitgeist. Projects like Joss Whedon's "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog" cast a long shadow over spoofs of sci-fi/comic book malefactors. Directed by Kevin Gillese and Jason von Hinezmeyer, The Super Villain Monologues turns the spotlight on more than a dozen over-the-top evildoers who sneeringly describe their world-conquering schemes when they’re not obsessing over petty grievances.

Christian Danley, Alison Hastings and Lucky Yates portray or operate the puppets of the various villains amid a set that ingeniously replicates a sinister underground lair. Frequently the larger-than-life, inhuman figures get hung up by the minutiae of 21st century society. Lord Overmind tries to rule the Earth from outer space, but gets in a pointless Twitter war with the leader of the rebels. Killbot keeps getting distracted while delivering his speech about humanity’s impending destruction: “Is that a DVR? Oh, snap, those things are great!”

Some the speeches follow old-fashioned comedy tropes, like snake-bodied Medusa (Hastings) of Greek mythology slithering into a psychologist’s office, or a young barista describing her life as a villain groupie: “The Riddler was my rebound, but I couldn’t figure him out.” Others obey their own gonzo logic, like Danley’s highlight, a slacker-type who describes his ability to transform into 100 bears.

A framing device based on a novel by Austin Grossman casts Yates as Dr. Impossible, a superpowered villain bent on world conquest who describes his life and motivations while languishing in prison. Intriguingly, the show doesn’t play the Dr. Impossible scenes for laughs. In some of his best work as a stage actor, Yates presents Dr. Impossible as a intense, confident figure of military bearing, if you can imagine Charlton Heston playing Lex Luthor for serious. The arch-nemesis explains himself matter-of-factly, his alienation and misdirected ambition perhaps serving as a metaphor for the kind of immature real-life personalities who reject society rather than try to adjust to it.

But a speech with an old-school “vampyre” (Yates) decrying the wussy bloodsuckers of Twilight and “True Blood” already feels dated, even though the show lasts barely an hour, the last few bits come across as padding. Some of the historic iconography and comedic implications of supervillains goes untapped, which comes as a surprise, given playhouse’s pop-savvy ensemble. At the very least, the show could find room for a musical number. Like The Vagina Monologues for nerds, The Super Villain Monologues offers an evening’s wicked entertainment. With a little more polish, however, the show has the potential to RULE THE WORLD! MWAH-HAH-HAH!

The Super Villain Monologues. Nov. 3-Dec. 3. $12-18. 8 p.m. Thu.-Sat., PWYC Nov. 14. Dad’s Garage Theatre, 280 Elizabeth St. 404-523-3141.

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