|The play “Save The World” runs until Febuary 9 in New York City|
As the hometown of Spider-Man, the setting of much of “Heroes,” and the site of countless caped skirmishes between the forces of good and evil, New York City has an extensive history with superheroes, but witnessing the grand adventures of costumed powerhouses live on stage is a comparatively rare treat. Running Thursdays through Saturdays until February 9 at the American Theatre of Actors, Roundhouse Ensemble’s “Save the World” brings super-team action to life in an exciting and lively production written by Chris Kipiniak and written by Michael Barakiva.
A contributor to “Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man,” Kipiniak’s new play hits all the notes of a grand superhero epic. “Save the World” begins with a dark monologue by Roach, former sidekick to the hero Aeon, who has been driven insane by the events of a catastrophic Protectorate mission. As the story unfolds, we learn that this event – dubbed “the Conflagration” – also claimed the life of another hero, the telepathic Prodigy, and laid waste to the city of Denver. Now, as multiple natural disasters break out across the world, the remaining members of the Protectorate race to discover what – or who – is responsible for the destruction, while also struggling with their own past mistakes.
“Save the World” does take some chances in terms of storytelling, sneaking in political commentary almost through the back door. As the main plot progresses, we are also made aware that the Protectorate is about to assume responsibility for the city of Jerusalem. Though rarely mentioned, this actually turns out to be a fairly key motivator to several character arcs, and ultimately leads to some barely disguised “War on Terror” rhetoric, which is both very funny and slightly unnerving.
Other aspects of the plot, such as overt nods to “Watchmen,” will elicit different reactions among those who are well versed in comic book lore and those who may be witnessing these events with uninitiated eyes.
The play does a surprisingly good job of translating superhero action to the stage, employing panels built into the set and a heavy serving of sound effects to convey the dangerous feats and spectacular rescues our heroes perform.
There is also a weakness in the area of stage combat, which has largely been resolved by avoiding physical fights on-stage; but a brief encounter between Roach and Future Knight reminds us what’s lacking. Noshir Dalal, playing the guileless hero Legend, clearly has some martial arts or dance training, and executes some exciting moves, but these are not performed against a physical adversary.
For comic fans looking for a fun night out, “Save the World” offers an engaging story backed up by strong acting and clever scenic design. There is some cheesiness, and there are a few flaws, but in the context of superheroes and the larger universe of the comic book medium, it all feels appropriate – after all, some of us just wouldn’t be happy without the occasional “WTF” moment – and contributes to the overall feeling that this play is an authentic manifestation of a love for comics.
“Save the World” runs January 17-February 9, Thursday through Saturday, at the American Theatre of Actors, 314 West 54th Street. Tickets and further information are available at www.roundhouseensemble.org.
Now discuss this story in the CBR Forums.