nytheatre.com review by Richard Hinojosa
March 22, 2013
Unlike most superheroes, Superman is Superman. Clark Kent is the disguise. He relates to the world through a bumbling, awkward character but the real man is the complete opposite. The characters in Geek! believe this is the case for them too. Their real life is a superhero’s but they are forced to go to high school and relate and post status updates. However, when they can leave all that behind and enter the world of Dante’s Fire, their favorite comic book, they can truly become the heroes they love.
Geek! is a hilarious tour of a Dante’s Fire convention that leads you from the seedy underbelly where unsanctioned plastic sword-play occurs to the Forest of Gergies where all things imagined become real. Along the way, you’ll meet a lot of “likeminded” people who love a little cosplay and who doesn’t love a little cosplay? Dressed up like Dante and Vergie, the two good-guys from Dante’s Fire, Danya and Honey arrive at the convention only to be turned away by security. It becomes their quest to enter the convention by any means necessary. They have something to give the creator of Dante’s Fire, a video, the last video they made of themselves in character playing out a story. As they run deeper into the world of the convention, they run further away from reality…and the real reason they feel they must deliver the video.
Playwright Crystal Skillman creates a world where, as she says, if “you let your mind go a little…you can go anywhere.” The health of our imagination tends to deteriorate as we grow up but I think we can all agree that a healthy imagination is a good thing. Skillman has plenty of it to go around. Geek! is a celebration of the imagination. It revels in a subculture dedicated to living life according to their own rules and while managing not to poke fun at anyone for enjoying some role play it actually tells a great story about how we relate to the world and to those closest to us. The dialogue is screwball comedy fast and as sharp tongued as can be. Skillman is a master of wit and character who knows the value of fast action and the honor of good versus evil.
Her director Robert Ross Parker presides over all this action crafting seamless transitions of location and character that make for a smooth, almost mechanical flow. Needles-to-say, in a play about cosplay you had better have excellent costume designers. Kristina Makowski and Jessica Wegener Shay more than out do themselves with their inventive and elaborate costumes designs. They create well over a dozen unique costumes that never fail to dazzle. The exciting fight action, choreographed by fight director Ray Rodriguez, is well timed and designed to look fun, thrilling and yet safe for the performers. Also worth mentioning is Matthew Tennie’s cool video design that is, in part, projected on spinning columns that also serve as flats in Nick Francone’s set design. Honestly, the entire design team does an incredible job on this production.
The ensemble is fantastic! Most of them play at least half a dozen characters. Only Danya and Honey remain the same character throughout. Allison Buck is sensational as the honorable Danya/Dante and Becky Byers is just too adorable as her sidekick Honey/Vergie. Rebecca Comtois, Eugene Oh and Emily Williams play a variety of characters and manage to get a lot of laughs (and into their many different costumes very quickly). Sheldon Best plays all of his characters bigger than life and yet he achieves an endearing authenticity when he reveals Toby, the real guy underneath the costumes.
Geek! is pure fun on stage. It never takes itself too seriously and encourages you to let go of the real world and live in a fantasy world of your own design. I can’t think of a better way to spend an evening.
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