nytheatre.com review by Richard Hinojosa
May 9, 2008
What defines a hero? Is it our deeds? Or does it stem from something deeper? Playwright James Comtois explores this question and others in his shrewd and funny new play Colorful World.
The play is set in a world not unlike our own, with the exception that we have found a man who, for reasons unknown, is impervious to bullets and can crush things with his mind. Overman, as the government dubs him, is a very cold and straightforward sort of fellow when we first meet him but there seems to be something bugging him. At the opening of the story, he is taking a "much deserved" vacation. By the end of the first act, we discover that Overman has become disillusioned with his government job. He has become a weapon of imperialists and he is drunk with arrogance.
A second plotline tells of the people inspired by Overman's abilities. They begin dressing up in costumes and beating up criminals in bars and back alleys. These heroes range from Johnny Patriot to the sexy Tigress to the somewhat enigmatic Ramses. Eventually there is legislation that outlaws their activities and all these vigilantes are forced into retirement. But there is one among them who is destined for greater things.
Comtois takes his time uncovering the psychological effects of this sort of heroism on his characters. I really enjoyed seeing their struggles with ordinary life after playing superhero for so long. Granted some of them are only in it for the photo-op, but Comtois really makes his point about heroism clear with his portrayal of Overman. When Overman first started out he was an honest vigilante, but after he was convinced to work for the government everything changed for him. His deeds no longer seem heroic because his heart is no longer in them. He becomes morally bankrupt and Comtois cleverly shows us his downfall amidst worldwide political turmoil. Comtois uses a few very well written monologues to get into the minds of his characters and the play is very often belly-laugh funny.
Director Pete Boisvert creates a very cohesive world. His staging of the many locales is simple and effective though all the scene changing does become a bit tiresome. However, there are many finely designed short videos of newsreels and voiceovers to distract you during these changes. Meredith Magoun created some good costumes and I liked Phil Shearer's light design, but I was really impressed with the fight choreography of Qui Nguyen and Alexis Black.
The cast, with few exceptions, is very strong. Patrick Shearer leads as the contemplative and explosive Overman. He takes his character on a great journey and I went right along with him. Abe Goldfarb stands out as Ramses, the hero teetering on verge of insanity, and Mac Rogers is hilarious as the would-be hero filled with awkwardness and honesty. Christopher Yustin is great in his many roles and shines as Johnny Patriot. But it is Jessi Gotta who steals the show as the young heroine looking for a new life and possibly love.
In the end, Colorful World is a show that left me entertained and even a little introspective. It made me think a little about what I do in this world to help others. It didn't make me want to dress up in tights and fight crime but it did make me wish we had more heroes. Real heroes.