Saturday, January 22, 2011

- Theater Review - Metropolis Has No Superman

The Corn Stock Winter Playhouse continued its season with the presentation of two plays by playwrights "with local roots".

The first play is "Context", written and directed by Peorian Laura Swatner Johnson.
At just under ten minutes, this play was mercifully short. With no dialogue at all, it is a trite and forgettable narrative on communicating strictly through text message.

The evening's main event is "Metropolis Has No Superman" directed by Sean C. Howell and written by G. William Zorn. Mr. Zorn is a native Peorian, currently enrolled in the doctoral program at Western Michigan University.
Although this play was the winner of the Kennedy Center's 2009 Mark Twain Prize for Comedy Play writing, I would classify it as a drama with only a few comedic moments. Do not attend expecting a lot of belly laughs.

The play is set in Metropolis Illinois and centers on Chance Loring's estrangement from his family and in particular from his just deceased father. Many years ago, Chance fled the confines of small town Metropolis for the gay subculture in Chicago, where he makes his living drawing and publishing Queer-Boy Comics. Through his comics, Chance fictionalizes his family as well as his own life. The title character, Queer Boy, is based on Chance's boyfriend, Tracy. Another character, Jesus Girl is based on his sister Deedee. The comic book's villain is based on, you guessed it, Chance's father, Graham Loring.

After an absence of six years, Chance returns to Metropolis for his father's funeral. The elder Loring has committed suicide by driving his Chrysler full-speed into the statue of Superman that stands before the county courthouse.

This play is a solid work about family interaction and dysfunction by a talented aspiring playwright. It is filled with innuendo and symbolism, some of which is perhaps a bit too obvious. 

It was exciting to watch the play WITH the playwright and to be able to speak with him after.  I asked if his choice of a character name Tracy Betts was an homage to Chicago playwright Tracy Letts.  He replied that perhaps he subconsciously hoped to tap the good fortune that Letts had encountered with his Pulitzer Prize winning play "August Osage County", a  play that also examines similar themes of alcoholism and family dynamics.

This Corn Stock production is extremely well acted. 
All of the women deliver excellent performances, Rebecca Frankel Clifton as Marion, the alcoholic matriarch of the Loring clan, Donna K. Eckhoff as the slow and somewhat butch sister Doris; and Karen Stecher is especially good as sister Deedee Betterman/Jesus Girl.

John Carroll does a great turn in the lead role of Chance.  Fred Schoen is good as father Graham, and Jeff Craig is truly excellent in his portrayal of two totally different characters, Burt and Bill. 
While Brian McKinley does a good job as Tracy/Queer Boy, he is perhaps a little too laid-back in the role.  I would have liked to see him turn it up a notch.  In my opinion, the character needed to be a bit more flamboyant.   

It is truly commendable that Corn Stock, for the second year, is continuing to offer exposure to local playwrights.

Please make it a point to see this production at the Lab Theater in upper Bradley Park.  Tickets are only $10 and can purchased through the box office (676-2196) or at the door.  Performances continue tonight and tomorrow as well as next weekend (January 27 - 29).


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