According to Lincoln Center's new LCT3 project at its slogan, it takes "New Audiences for New Artists." It also takes new critics, hence the establishment of Theater Talk's New Theater Corps in 2005, a way for up-and-coming theater writers and eager new theatergoers to get exposure to the ever-growing theater scene in New York City. Writers for the New Theater Corps are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the off-off and off-Broadway theater scene, learning and giving back high-quality reviews at the same time. Driven by a passion and love of the arts, the New Theater Corps aims to identify, support, and grow the arts community, one show and one person at a time.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Men of Steel

Billed as a story that "spins the superhero genre on its head, " Men of Steel runs, jumps, punches and kicks its way to your funny bone. This action packed evening presents comics in a whole new light; giving a human face to the men behind the masks and along the way making you smile.

Paco Tolson (Damon) and Noshir Dalal (Lukas)
Reviewed by Kristyn R Smith

I must admit being a little worried as I fumbled through my program waiting for the start of Friday night's performance. The show clearly had something to do with superheroes, that much I could tell from the title and the picture on the cover, but the more I studied my program the more I realized I may be in over my head. There on the second page, a history of "the VC Comics Universe." Is that really necessary, I wondered? I don't know the first thing about comics or superheroes. I'd go so far as to say I'm even less versed than the average joe. I haven't seen the movies or television shows. Your Spidermans, Supermans, and Batmans, just never seemed worth my time. After all, you already know what happens in the end. Or do you...?

The story at first seems simple--good versus evil. But as the play progresses, questions are raised as to what being "good" actually means. Should a superhero be held accountable for his actions based on the law, or are their actions justified because of their efforts to help humanity? One would think that superheroes have it easy, but the playwright, Qui Nguyen leads you to believe otherwise. This and many other moral and ethical issues regarding superheroes are discussed at length. Sometimes far too long. The character of Malcom, who serves largely as the narrator, is prone to long diatribes on such topics. Thankfully these attempts at seriousness are often undermined by the humor. It is here that Nguyen really excels, and the artful, clever direction by Robert Ross Parker shines through at its full potential.

Under Parker's guidance, the designers soar. Particular kudos should be given to the set designer, Nick Francone, for making such good use of the tiny space and for his ability to indicate so many different locales with minimal set changes. The video interludes were also quite inventive. One of my favorite parts of the show was a short film using only Legos. Of course, it wouldn't be The Vampire Cowboys without the fight choreography.

Fight director Marius Hanford certainly proves his talent in this show, choreographing over 80% of the action. I was a mere 20 feet from the actors, sitting in the second row and I was shocked at how authentic most of the fights appeared. The actors put a great deal of energy into every kick and punch. They were also quite invested in the dramatic aspects of the play. Despite portraying larger than life characters and even caricatures, there was a sense of real humanity and realism. Noshir Dalal and Paco Tolson especially stood out for playing so well off each other and adding lots of laughs to what was already a funny show.

My only complaint was the sporadic eardrum-bursting loudness. The music was often deafening. So too were the actors, screaming to be heard. For what reason I'm not sure. The house is small, perhaps 12 rows deep. Even when full it doesn't warrant the levels that were reached at Friday's performance.

But all that aside, Men of Steel, made for a fun evening of theater. The various talents employed in this pursuit are put to good use here. A superhero couldn't do better.
Playing now at Center Stage
48 West 21st Street
(between 5th and 6th Aves)
Through April 8th
Thursday-Sunday 8:00 PM
Tickets $18.00

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