A Tale of Imaginary Cities: Ordinary Objects Come to Life in Théâtre de la Pire Espèce’s Cities


Olivier Ducas in Theatre de la Pire Espece’s Cities. Photo Credit: Mathieu Doyon.

Normal everyday objects can and do say a lot about a person. Think about a bookshelf, sometimes people look at a someone’s bookshelf to gather an idea of that person. Or, consider what photos people take the time to frame and put on display in their homes. Objects carry meaning, and they form a larger narrative, curated by the individual.

Presented by Theatre Junction, Théâtre de la Pire Espèce’s Cities is a series of imaginary cities, as conceived by writer/director Olivier Ducas and scenographer Julie Vallée-Léger, dissected onstage. The cities are organized in seven categories, from Sand Cities to Pocket Cities to Dual Cities. Ducas presents each city’s story to the audience by using a camera to focus on particular aspects of a city, supposedly revealing its soul in the process.

The city of Myriam, for example, has plans to replicate into near-infinity, seemingly with no originality in its plans. The main concern is growth, governed by conformist policies. Ducas starts with two red blocks, embedded vertically in a box of sand, then begins to place mirrors around the blocks to create the illusion of infinity.

For the city of Maxine, which is labelled under Ghost Cities, Ducas takes out a large wooden block with tall, slim blocks compacted together. He uses semi-opaque dividers to transform the cities’ towers into different graphs of data, explaining what each set of data says about the people living in Maxine. However, the city, Ducas tells us, has chosen to present only positive data, keeping less-than-favorable statistics about its residents hidden – at this point, a light turns on at the block’s base to reveal a negative bar graph.

The objective is subjective.

An idea of interest given that the federal government is currently asking Canadians to complete the national census, or else face fines and/or jail time. Data can be manipulated to tell or support any number of narratives. Human bias cannot be separated from the equation.

Even Ducas’ presentation of these imaginary cities is corrupted by human bias. The audience is only ever given Ducas’ interpretation of what he considers the true nature of these cities. What reference does the audience have to confirm the truth any of what Ducas says? None, not only because the cities are imaginary to begin with, but also because the audience has never visited these cities. The show should be seen as a collection of tourist propaganda, so to speak, not inherent truth.

Setting aside the problematic notion of objective truth, Cities is interesting as there is no dramatic tension that develops. The show is a journey through one man’s collection of imaginary cities. And yet, the show is oddly compelling. One reason for that is the spectacle of assembling regular objects, like sugar cubes and coffee beans, to create an intimate portrait of a city, but another is the psychology behind collecting that Ducas discusses in monologues. Why do people collect? What happens when collections are completed, when the seeking ends? Ducas suggests that for some people, collecting is less of a hobby and more of an activity in purpose seeking and fulfillment.

Interestingly, the majority of Ducas’ cities have female names (Cassandra, Gloria, Scarlett, Sylvia, Cathy, and nearly a dozen more). What comes to mind are sailors who, lonely at sea, would name their ships after wives or girlfriends. Thinking about that, what assumptions can we make about Ducas and his mostly female cities? The very same we make when we enter someone’s apartment for the first time and analyze their walls and shelves for information.

Profoundly imaginative, Théâtre de la Pire Espèce’s Cities is an intimate journey through the alleys of human rationality and emotion.

Théâtre de la Pire Espèce’s Cities ran May 4 – 7 at Theatre Junction GRAND.

For more information about the show, visit: http://www.theatrejunction.com/portfolio/cities-2/

Flora & Fawna’s Field Trip! Earns All The Badges


Flora & Fawna’s Field Trip! by Darrin Hagen & Trevor Schmidt runs May 2 – 21 at Lunchbox Theatre. Pictured, left to right: Trevor Schmidt (Fawna) and Darrin Hagen (Flora). Photo Credit: Ian Jackson, EPIC Photography.

Given that I participated in Flora & Fawna’s Field Trip!, I figured I break away from the usual third-person to write about this hilarious, although very emotional comedy playing now at Lunchbox Theatre until the 21st.

Created by Darrin Hagen & Trevor Schmidt, with Schmidt directing, Flora & Fawna’s Field Trip! is everything I wish my years in Cub Scouts had been. Hagen and Schmidt play two pre-teen girls named Flora and Fawna, respectively. Upset by the mean girls in their Girl Guide’s troop, Flora and Fawna have taken it upon themselves to form their own group called the NaturElles. The NaturElles is an all-inclusive group that welcomes everyone, except mean girls – like “Louise Hobson!” The only other member is Fleurette (Chris Enright), a young Francophone girl.

The audience participates in the NaturElle’s first membership drive, as a group and otherwise. I was pulled from my seat by Fawna to play a trivia game about wilderness survival, where I answered two of three questions correctly. What I learned from the experience is that I’m not very good at choking the chicken – we used rubber chickens as our buzzers.

Before this, Flora and Fawna asked the audience to take the friendships bracelets from the bags handed to them before the show and tie them around each other’s wrist. The circle widened, and it continued widening as the girls’ activities – like learning how to pee in the woods – brought everyone together through laughter, like laughing-so-hard-it-hurts laughter.

The show is a lot of like camp, well it’s more like the version of camp that adults promise you before shipping you off for the weekend. Personally, I hated my time in Cub Scouts, primarily because I was bullied by the other boys. Sure, we were asked to adhere to a set of golden rules, principles, and values, but none of that mattered when the adults weren’t around.

But it’s not just kids who are mean, but also adults. There are revealing moments that suggest that all is not right in Fawna’s home with her mom and step-dad. If you want to talk about risk, let’s talk about how Hagen and Schmidt, after nearly an hour of sexual innuendo and quirky humour, end the story on a very heavy note. There’s a place where fantasy and reality meet, and the two take the story there, on the precipice of adulthood.

And so, the show is about several things, but it’s mainly about the fantasies kids create to escape their problems. The NaturElles is a very real group for Flora and Fawna, because they need it to be.

Lunchbox Theatre has a knack for staging plays that hit something very real deep down inside, and Flora and Fawna’s Field Trip! is no different. Hagen and Schmidt have created a show that speaks to the kids inside all of us, and let’s us escape into a world of play. A must-see.

Darrin Hagen & Trevor Schmidt’s Floral & Fawna’s Field Trip! runs May 2 – 21 at Lunchbox Theatre.

For more information about the show, including how to purchase tickets, visit: http://www.lunchboxtheatre.com/flora-and-fawna/


Bellissima: A Lonely Heart Finds Home in Theatre Calgary’s The Light in the Piazza

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Left to Right: Susan Gilmour and Anwyn Musico in The Light in the Piazza, playing now at Theatre Calgary. Photo Credit: Trudie Lee.

For its last show of the 2015/16 season, Theatre Calgary whisks audiences away to Italy with the Tony award-winning musical The Light in the Piazza.

Based on the 1960 novella of the same by Elizabeth Spencer, The Light in the Piazza tells the story of 26-year-old Clara Johnson (Anwyn Musico) and her mother Margaret (Susan Gilmour) who are away on holiday in Florence, Italy. While out exploring the city with her mother, Clara runs into a young Italian man named Fabrizio Naccarelli (Louie Rossetti), and it is love at first sight. Margaret pulls Clara away from Fabrizio, insisting that the two go their separate ways. In what seems like destiny, Fabrizio runs into Clara and her mother twice more, eventually inviting them to meet his family for tea.

At every turn, Margaret insists that Clara does not get involved with Fabrizio. Fabrizio’s father Signor (David Keeley) sees nothing wrong with their relationship, even if it is all very sudden. What Fabrizio’s family doesn’t know about Clara is that a head injury sustained on her 12th birthday negatively affected her mental and emotional development. Margaret fears that if Fabrizio were to find out the truth about her daughter, he would run away just like all the others, which would devastate Clara. Margaret is conflicted, however, when she sees how happy Clara and Fabrizio are together, and how taken the Naccarrelis are with her.

With the musical opening a week away from Mother’s Day, Margaret’s conflict over letting go of her only child is particularly relevant. Margaret wants only the best for Clara, that is she wants to see her daughter happy. The problem is, there are a number of risks in allowing Clara to be with Fabrizio. Is it her decision, though? When, if ever, do her responsibilities as a mother end? What if the doctors were wrong about Clara, says Margaret to her husband Roy (Christopher Hunt) over the phone.

Meanwhile, Clara is eager to fly free from her overprotective mother and live a fulfilled life, like any young person her age.

What’s interesting about the musical score (music and lyrics by Adam Guettel) is the presence of both English and Italian in the lyrics, with some songs sung entirely in Italian. The book (by Craig Lucas) also features both languages, although with broken english from the Naccarelis added into the mix. As well, the score is majorly influenced by opera, borrowing elements for a less than traditional musical.

For those wondering, there are no translations provided. The lack of translations may seem intimidating, but director Michael Shamata’s effective staging makes clear what the Italian-speaking characters are expressing.

The musical score is magnificently interpreted by musical director Jonathan Monro, who also plays piano in the band. The band is positioned onstage, behind the actors, for a concert feel. The score captures the wonder and innocence of young love, and the pains of old love, splendidly; It’s like a candlelit dinner on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea.

Speaking of which, the production is a feast for the eyes. Set designer Christina Poddubiuk has seemingly airlifted the splendor of Florence into the Max Bell Theatre. The stage rotates to create the illusion of walking along the streets of Florence, and to allow for fluid scene changes. Lighting designer Alan Brodie hits Poddubiuk’s set with an array of warm lights, casting the stage in a romantic softness.

Audiences will fall in love with Musico as the bright-eyed Clara. The young actress brings tremendous vibrancy and vulnerability to her character. Gilmour succeeds in playing a variety of shades as Margaret, a parent who acts only out of love. Rossetti has a lot of fun as Fabrizio, a harmless puppy in love. His charming smile can be seen rows and rows away from the stage. Rosetti and Musico share a delightful chemistry together, making for an adorable stage couple.

From its beautiful musical score to superb performances to strong aesthetics, there’s a lot to love about Theatre Calgary’s production of The Light in the Piazza. The story of a young American woman whose heart finds a home in Italy is told with such grace and elegance that it should not be missed.

Theatre Calgary’s The Light in the Piazza runs April 26 – May 22.

For more information about the show, including how to purchase tickets, visit:

Young Frankenstein Comes Alive (Well, Sort Of) At Stage West

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Left to Right: Frau Blucher (Jayne Lewis),  Dr.Frederick  Frankenstein (Kevin Dennis), and Inga (Amanda Struthmann). Young Frankenstein, now playing at Stage West until June 26. Photo provided by Stage West.

The hit 1979 film Young Frankenstein, written by Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder with Brooks directing, parodied Mary Shelley’s gothic horror novel Frankenstein all the way to the bank. Nearly three decades later, the film was turned into a Broadway musical with Brooks writing the music and lyrics, and the book with Thomas Meehan.

And now, the musical has landed in Calgary at Stage West, albeit with some loose nuts and bolts.

Directed by J. Sean Elliott, Young Frankenstein stages the story of Victor von Frankenstein’s grandson, Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Kevin Dennis). Living in New York City is perfect for Frederick who wants nothing to do with his grandfather’s legacy of creating monsters. All that changes, however, when Frederick receives news that he has inherited his family’s estate in Transylvania. Frederick travels to Transylvania, leaving behind his fiancee Elizabeth (Adrienne Merrell), and soon befriends Igor (Greg Pember), the grandson of Victor’s own sidekick. The scientist finds a new lab assistant in Inga (Amanda Struthmann), a beautiful young woman with a degree in Laboratory Science.

Tormented by the ghosts of his ancestors, Frederick sets out to create a monster of his own, much to the delight of his grandfather’s former girlfriend Frau Blucher (Jayne Lewis). Unable to contain his creation, The Monster (Adam Stevenson) runs amok in Transylvania.

Young Frankestein features plenty of Broadway flair with its catchy, although not very memorable, musical numbers, choreographed by Phil Nero. Flair alone is not enough to carry the show. Young Frankenstein is a throwback to classic Broadway musicals, but infused with Brooks’ obscene, often deadpan humour that audiences either laugh at or shrug their shoulders. The jokes either sometimes lack subtlety and/or are just plain offensive.

The Monster’s entire schtick is that he was given an ‘abnormal’ brain (instead of a renowned scientist’s brain), resulting in a low intelligence that makes it difficult for him to speak or articulate words properly. The humour of “Puttin’ On The Ritz” (by Irvin Berlin) relies entirely on The Monster’s shouting and screaming of the lyrics. The musical number becomes very uncomfortable when you realize the whole joke is focused on laughing at someone with a disability.

And then there’s the whole bit with the blind hermit that pours hot soup on The Monster…

If audiences can overlook show’s questionable humour, the musical is fairly entertaining thanks to its talented cast. Dennis and Pemper are quite the team as scientist and sidekick, delivering big laughs as they bumble their way through the scientific method together. Struthmann’s pipes make “Roll in The Hay” a fun hayride, yodelling and all. Dressed with large boots, Stevenson stands very tall as The Monster, making his dancing all the more impressive (it’s a long way down!). Lewis really steals the show as Fran Blucher, though, who she plays like a lustful, much sterner Morticia Addams – yes, the horse gag is present, by the way.

Leslie Robinson-Greene’s bright, eye-popping costume designs for the production are marvelous, as are Leon Schwesinger’s set designs. The production looks great under JP Thibodeau’s dynamic stage lighting.

Audiences expecting the film translated beat for beat on the stage will be sorely disappointed as Brooks’ show is an entirely different beast altogether. The fault is not with Stage West, but the adaptation itself. Brooks’ musical numbers do little to sustain the show, besides allowing time for scene changes. The show is not much of a creative departure from the film. Add in the show’s offensive humour, and Young Frakenstein becomes even less appealing. So, what is it? Call it an unnecessary adaptation only fans of Brooks’ signature humour will truly appreciate.

Audiences can miss Stage West’s Young Frankenstein.

Stage West’s Young Frakenstein runs April 22 – June 26.

For more information about the show, including how to purchase tickets, visit: http://stagewestcalgary.com/young-frankenstein-the-musical-by-mel-brooks/


Get Thee to The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)


Left to Right: Braden Griffiths, Aaron Coates, and Geoffrey Simon Brown. Photo courtesy of Lunchbox Theatre.

A co-production by Lunchbox Theatre and The Shakespeare Company, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) blasts through the Bard’s 37 plays in one single evening with hilarious results.

Written by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) is a parody of all things Shakespeare performed by three actors. Braden Griffiths, Geoffrey Simon Brown, and Aaron Cotes perform the play as themselves, well really exaggerated versions of themselves. Preeminent Shakespearean scholar Coates carries all 37 plays in an enormous book, acting as director to the actors who sometimes get away from the original source material. Through slapstick and improv, the actors set out to accomplish the amazing feat of capturing all of Shakespeare’s works in one single theatrical experience.

Everything about the performance is deliciously over-the-top and absurd. Shakespeare’s tragedy Titus Andronicus is parodied as a very bloody cooking show. Then, the three white actors agree that neither one of them can play the character of Othello without being racially insensitive, so they decide to rap Othello from beginning to end. The histories are performed as a football game, with the actors tossing the crown from one king to another on the gridiron with sports commentary.

And Brown’s female characters are keen to vomit on the audience.

Director Kevin McKendrick’s firm hand makes for a well-tuned production. There is method in the madness, although sometimes there are moments or gags that fail to hit the mark. Even still, the sheer hilarity of three actors trying to perform 37 plays in under 90 minutes is enough to forgive minor missteps.

Griffiths, Brown and Coates would fit right in with the acting troupe from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The energetic trio are a lot of fun to watch as they rip through Shakespeare’s plays, smashing the fourth wall along the way.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) runs at Lunchbox Theatre until the 24th. As part of Lunchbox Theatre To Go, the play will be presented The Beddington Community Arts Centre (Storybook Theatre) starting April 27th.

Get thee to The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), the silliest Shakespeare show around.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) runs April 19 – 24th at Lunchbox Theatre. The production runs April 27th – May 6th at The Beddington Community Arts Centre (Storybook Theatre). 

For more information about the show, including how to purchase tickets, visit: http://www.lunchboxtheatre.com/complete-works



World Premiere: MacKenzie’s Benefit Explores The Ethics of Charity



Left to Right: Tyrell Crews, Donna Soares, Barbara Gordon, and Duval Lang in Downstage’s production of Benefit, a play by Matthew MacKenzie. Photo Credit: Mike Tan.

There are over 80,000 registered charities in Canada advocating public support for a number of causes. With so many charities in competition for both public and private funds, how do they separate themselves from the rest? That question is answered in Albertan playwright Matthew MacKenzie’s Benefit, a compelling drama that explores the ethics of charity.

Enjoying its world premiere at Downstage in the Motel Theatre, Mackenzie’s Benefit stages an extravagant gala fundraiser hosted by an Albertan charitable foundation that supports young girls’ education worldwide. The play opens with an auction for rare orchids hosted by Fred MacDonald (Duval Lang), the founder and head of the foundation. His wife Cynthia (Barbara Gordon) joins him in playing up the exotic nature of the orchids. The evening’s true star, however, is Srey Norris (Donna Soares), a young woman from Cambodia who was the foundation’s first beneficiary. Srey works for the foundation now as a spokesperson, delivering speeches to politicians and other potential donors about the foundation’s work. The foundation’s future is threatened when Srey’s husband Greg Norris (Tyrell Crews), an orchidologist, discovers a dark secret from Fred’s past.

MacKenzie’s play highlights the importance of narratives that appeal to the public’s emotions. Fred recounts a time he thought the foundation was beat because someone’s ‘sob story’ about their people being killed for sport was a real doozy. Thankfully, Srey blew everyone else’s stories out of the water by tying each of their stories together and positioning education as the solution to the world’s problems. The cause doesn’t speak for itself, MacKenzie argues, it requires a story developed around it

In trying to outperform other narratives, however, charities risk degrading the people they are trying to help by engaging in poverty porn. Think about the children that UNICEF or World Vision use in their television commercials. The children are rarely shown living in sanitary conditions, instead they shown living in absolute “third-world” squalor. Certainly, the living conditions in certain areas of the world are not ideal, but charitable organizations make sure to show the worst of the worst, firmly establishing these negative images in the public’s mind overtime. If they didn’t, then the public might not think that the situation is dire enough for their support.

And so, using Srey as a spokesperson is a powerful tactic since she is a well-educated and well-spoken immigrant of colour; a new member of the first-world. Her presence proves the foundation’s effectiveness at lifting third-world children from dirt to civilization. Fred sees Srey as a daughter, yes, but he undoubtedly sees her as an important part of the foundation’s own narrative. So, how genuine is their relationship? How genuine is any working relationship between white philanthropists and people of colour recruited to help the cause? We are asked to consider the motives behind the promotion of diversity, especially within predominantly white organizations. Can charitable organizations only go so far without the (white) guilt that foreignness arouses?

MacKenzie’s play offers plenty to consider about the ethics of charity, like the hypocrisy of holding a lavish gala while millions can barely afford to live both domestically and abroad. And it’s all written marvelously with no easy answers, well no answers at all actually. The play presents its issues and leaves the audience, hopefully unsettled by the revelations that unfold, to think about what the greater good really means – how far is too far?

And it’s all impeccably staged by director Simon Mallett with great intimacy inside the 50-seat theatre. Alley staging puts the audience into close quarters with the actors. Deitra Kalyn’s set bleeds extravagance while remaining functional i.e. good sightlines. The beams get in the way occasionally, though, but only briefly. The audience’s seats have been designed to fit the hall’s aesthetics, so the theatre really feels like an extension of the hall itself. The set looks fantastic under Kathryn Smith’s lighting design.

Soares and Crews truly challenge each other as their characters grapple with the truth behind Fred’s past. Soares lights up the stage, with Crews responding beat for beat. Lang plays the wealthy philanthropist with gusto, adding in a nice touch of older relative who says racially insensitive things at the dinner table. Gordon is much more stiff upper crust, moving with poise across the stage, but she’s not so innocent. Lang and Gordon play very privileged white folk who are unaware of their privilege, and it’s equally delightful and aggravating. The veteran actors are a wonderful pairing, like wine and cheese.

Brilliantly written, MacKenzie’s Benefit is socially relevant theatre at its finest. A must-see.

Downstage’s Benefit runs April 13 – 30 at the Motel Theatre (Arts Commons).

For more information about the show, including how to purchase tickets, visit: http://www.downstage.ca/benefit.shtml


Canadian Premiere: King Kirby Chronicles Life of Famed Comic Book Artist

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Left to Right: Stan Lee (David LeReaney) and Jack Kirby (Robert Klein) in Sage Theatre’s King Kirby, a play by Crystal Skillman & Fred Van Lente. Photo Credit: Justin Michael Carriere.

American comic book artist Jack Kirby is the creative mind behind Captain America, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, and a multitude of other smash-hit characters. Kirby’s characters have been given the big screen treatment with the release of Marvel Studio’s Cinematic Universe, which has broken box-office records worldwide. Given the immense popularity of Kirby’s creations, some may ask themselves why the artist’s name doesn’t ring a bell right away.

Enjoying its Canadian premiere at Sage Theatre, Crystal Skillman and Fred Van Lente’s King Kirby chronicles the life of Jack Kirby (Robert Klein), artist and family man who stuck to his guns in a cutthroat creative industry. The play opens with an auctioneer selling Kirby’s priceless artwork to the highest bidder, with Kirby watching in frustration from the sidelines. For Kirby, the money was just as important as the magic behind his work. Kirby’s business partner Joe Simon (Justin Michael Carriere), or the one with the suit, pushes him from business deal to business deal in an industry Simon calls temporary. The comic book industry lasts for several decades, and Kirby is there every step of its evolution, from the Golden Age of Comics to the introduction of the Comics Code Authority.

Skillman and Van Lente’s play looks at the various influences on Kirby’s work, including his time serving under General Patton (Cam Ascroft) in World War II. The key influence, however, is Kirby’s rough upbringing in New York’s Lower East Side during the Great Depression. Kirby is portrayed as a brawler in his early years, something that would change in adulthood. Why Kirby was hesitant to fight for his worth in the industry was that not only did he have a family to feed with his wife Roz (Cheryl Hutton), but he just wasn’t a businessman; the industry and his principles were like oil and water.

Comic book writer Stan Lee (David LeReaney) is another reason Kirby fell into relative obscurity. Today, audiences know Lee as the face of Marvel Comics. (He makes a cameo appearance in just about every movie based on a Marvel property). He didn’t just fall into that position, the playwrights demonstrate. Lee took a lot of credit for the work he and Kirby worked on together, and he was also very friendly with the public. The media ate up Lee’s eccentric behaviour, labeling him a creative genius while ignoring Kirby’s contributions.

The first act is bloated with all the history Skillman and Van Lente try to cover in addition to Kirby and Roz’s relationship. The play feels very much like a crash course on all things Kirby, or a rushed tour through the Kirby museum. Thankfully, the second act is a much tighter, engaging product. Kirby’s fallout with Lee and the legal controversies that ensue hits something very human in this play about a man behind the greatest superheroes of all-time. Kirby’s story is heartbreaking, and it’s a story that plays out again and again with artists all over who lose credit for their work. Makers from all disciplines will identify with Kirby’s struggle to retain control over his work; his soul.

The Victor Mitchell Theatre is set up simply enough, with a raised platform in the middle where Kirby’s drawing table is kept. Actors come in from different corners, playing scenes between two large comic panel frames. Set Designer Anton de Groot’s set is very clean and effective for the kind of scene hopping that plays out. Lauren Acheson’s light is effective, too, with giving the production a number of ‘emotional shades’ for the highs and lows of Kirby’s life. Kathryn Smith’s costume design does a good job of capturing the different time periods that Kirby’s career runs across.

One can’t help but feel, however, that the production would benefit from some projection work to display Kirby’s work against the large, white screens behind the set. Yes, we can all imagine Captain America in our heads, but for a play about such a renowned comic book artist there’s a strange absence of actual artwork, if even some of Kirby’s early creations. (*the absence is likely due to copyright issues).

For opening night, the performance feels like a dress rehearsal. The show runs choppy and unpolished, specifically during scene transitions. The audience sits in silence for just a touch too long before the story picks up again. Director Jason Mehmel’s sharp eye navigates the scene hopping well enough, delivering nice character moments here and there through effective blocking, but the stifled pace drains energy from the show. The script is uneven as mentioned, but regardless there’s a sense that the production’s moving parts aren’t in sync.

That being said, the actors bring plenty dimension to the characters. Klein plays Kirby as a fighter worn out and ready for retirement, but the world wants him to keep fighting. Kirby could fight, after all he nearly died serving overseas in France, but it’s a question of what’s at stake for his family if he loses. So, Kirby is lost in his mind with not only his creations, but his worries about the future, and that struggle reads clear across from Klein. Carriere’s stature is appropriate given he’s the hustle of the two, bringing an almost 80’s Wall Street slickness to the role of Simon. LeReaney, on the other hand, is just absolutely slimey as Lee, like the friend who promises to keep a secret but then tells everyone the next day. He also bears a striking resemblance to Lee with his sunglasses on, giving the catchphrase “Exclesior!” added oomph. Ascroft as Victor Fox also channels that same greasiness, but with more explicit maliciousness. Hutton’s Roz is a fighter like Kirby, but she’s stuck as a spectator to her husband’s misery. The actress mixes that New York toughness with real sensitivity. There aren’t enough scenes between Hutton and Klein who share great chemistry together.

Comic book fans will enjoy and appreciate King Kirby for bringing such an important story to the public’s attention, especially with the popularity of comic book movies in recent years. Unfortunately, Sage Theatre’s production falls short of being mint condition.

Sage Theatre’s King Kirby runs April 15 – 23 at the Victor Mitchell Theatre (Pumphouse Theatres).

For more information about the show, including how to purchase tickets, visit: http://sagetheatre.com/index.php/king-kirby-by-crystal-skillman-and-fred-van-lente/