By David Walters
Words in a script are just black marks on a page. When an actor with talent and skill gets ahold of them, they come alive. They lift off the page and become life.
Theater is hard, difficult, and not easily harnessed and tied down. Martin McDonaugh has called it the worst of the art forms. Though it’s originally created by one person, the writer, as a seed containing the DNA, it is eventually a totally collaborative art. That collaboration can either give to or take away from the original seed.
SuperHero by Ian Eaton is blessed to be staffed by four actors with talent and skill that know how to care for a bare seed, working together to bring life to a script that doesn’t know what it is yet. In the program notes the playwright shares what he thinks the play is about. What he describes is not what is up on the stage. No matter, the actors made something of it.
What is up on that stage and worth watching are four wonderful actors playing multiple roles, changing voice, stance and attitude with a smoothness that makes it a pleasure to watch artists at work. Caricatures could have easily been utilized, but these actors, these artists, created lives lived with their work.
Bryce Michael Wood is the only one that plays one character (the lead, our hero, Ian Eaton) that ages from 5-12, establishing the young age and mannerisms and bringing them forward with confidence as he grows up in the projects in Harlem in the 1980’s. Valisia Lekae is asked to age 40 years in one second as she plays his mother, a 5th grade girl, and a nun. She compellingly nails each characterization and brings a depth and strong emotional life to each. She has a great strength that she taps and allows the audience to easily know who she has now become. Jeorge Bennett Watson flips between Ian’s father and his best friend with an agile alacrity and makes each one totally believable. He was a joy to watch. SJ Hannah dances between an awkward innocent teen just testing his wings and the school bully, making each character both vulnerable and hardened from fear. When Mr. Hannah, as the school bully, is asked to choose a superpower, he claims the power of not being able to feel pain, we sense the depth of anguish his character has experienced in his life.
Lawrence Moten created a set for this dreamlike memory play that was both real and unreal at the same time. Amina Alexander’s lighting brought focus to each scene and expanded the playing space when called for. Not an easy task in a small theater. Ronvé O’Daniel’s sound design playfully set the tone of the play for each scene as we traveled in place and time.
I’ve just gone on and on about the people making the script of SuperHero come alive for a reason. They made the show what it was. The script currently does not have legs to stand on its own, but each of these artists, doing their job and executing their art, brought hot air to a deflated story and allowed it to get off the ground.
Performances for SuperHero run through May 1, 2022 at The Frank Shiner Theater at The Sheen Center (18 Bleecker Street) https://tickets.housesonthemoon.org.
Written by Ian Eaton, developed with and directed by Warren Adams.
Starring: Valisia Lekae, SJ Hannah, Jeorge Bennett Watson, and Bryce Michael Wood.
The creative team for SuperHero includes Lawrence Moten (scenic design), Amina Alexander (lighting design), and Ronvé O’Daniel (sound design).
Running time: 2 hours including one ten-minute intermission.
As always, this is just one man’s opinion in a world filled with them.
Photo: Russ Rowland
Summary Good acting that lifts the script.