Big Plastic Heroes
nytheatre.com review by Robert Attenweiler
February 25, 2012
If you’re a parent, daredevil stuntman Evel Knievel is probably not the person you want topping your child’s list of heroes. But that’s exactly the case in Big Plastic Heroes, the solo show written and performed by Slash Coleman. Coleman, speaking as his 8-year old self, describes his idolization of Knievel in a personal narrative that soon branches out to include his crush on his 3rd grade teacher, his wacky family and eventually to Nazi-occupied France. Bet you didn’t see that last one coming…
But before we get to Coleman’s story, the audience is treated to a short performance by Becca Bernard. Bernard’s physical, non-verbal, interactive piece instructs the audience on “How to be a Superhero.” Its relation to the larger story of the show is only loosely thematic. Like the cartoon before a movie, it comes off a bit like filler, but it is a fun piece to watch and be part of so I can’t complain.
Then Coleman takes the stage in a replica Evel Knievel red, white and blue jumpsuit. For much of the story, he talks in the timid and wondering voice of a much younger version of himself. Much of the action of his story involves him trying to break his own leg hoping to win the affections of his teacher. He never succeeds in breaking his leg, though there is a bad run-in with a dog that gets him his end, after all.
This spins into funny stories about his father, mother and twin sisters as he grows up in Virginia in the 1970s. The narrative and the performance takes on greater weight, though, when Coleman talks about a picture his mother has of her parents—Coleman’s grandparents—both working at the Moulin Rouge in Paris in the 1930s. Both were vibrant artists and both were forced from the Moulin Rouge and into the French Resistance by the order that Jews could no longer participate in the arts. Coleman’s impression of his grandfather is his best of the many characters he inhabits throughout the show.
The show’s director, Jules Moorhouse, keeps the story—which can sometimes drift into childhood daydreaming—grounded and moving swiftly and enjoyably along. Coleman has many fine moments, though his 8-year old’s voice seems a little small even for a small theater.
Evel Knievel would, no doubt, be pleased with this daringly thoughtful solo show.