Saturday, April 13, 2013

Scifi Theater: Goldor $ Mythyka and Geek!

Goldor $ Mythyka
New Georges at the New Ohio Theater
written by Lynn Cohen
directed by Shana Gold
April 6, 2013

Vampire Cowboys at Incubator Arts Project
written by Crystal Skillman
directed by Robert Ross Parker
April 11, 2013

Actually, this pair of shows aren't quite SF theater. But they're close, since they both take the role of fandom (especially the scifi/fantasy/comics fan) as their subjects.

Goldor (Garrett Neergaard), Mythyka (Jenny Seastone Stern),
and their DJ-commentator (Bobby Moreno)
Photo credit: Jim Baldassare
Basically, Goldor $ Mythyka revisits the Bonnie & Clyde myth. Its title characters are a pair of social misfits who find their ideal selves in role-playing games. Emboldened by their fantasy lives, they stage a heist and become folk heroes. But with a halfling on the way, Mythyka abandons fantasy and Goldor's revolutionary self-aggrandizement. The playwright adds flesh to the conventional arc by reframing the American myth of self-creation in light of the Great Recession. Her smartest twist is to suggest that parenting, in a sense, is a valid mode of self-creation. The play's only flaw is an onstage MC who comments on the drama. Though played by Bobby Moreno with charm and crack timing, the role's only substantive purpose is to exposit subtext that lies under the dialogue. The play's strong enough, with snazzy projections to set the scene and a cast of confident young and not-young actors, to establish its own identity.

Geek!, meanwhile, follows a pair of cosplayers through an actual convention. The two teens revel in the sense of belonging that dressing as manga characters offers them, but find that identity is more complex than pursuing an obsession, adopting a costume, or even abandoning those passions to stand alone. The sentiment that sorority and support is necessary could easily devolve into glib phrasing about belonging to a like-minded community. But Geek! goes beyond that by showing that self-disclosure (in this case, mourning a friend and sibling's suicide) is individualized and intimate. But that theme sounds heavy, which is the opposite of Geek!. Playwright Skillman knows pop subculture and, with director Robert Ross Parker and an exuberant design team, translates it into imaginative theatrics: dayglo hairdos and a steampunk cuirass; DIY YouTube videos that serve as flashbacks; crossdressing and crosscasting; a multiracial cast with a range of body types. It features plenty of stage combat―always a plus―yet it resolves the rivalry between two girls (not over a guy, incidentally) by joining them in friendship. 
The Geek! trio of Emily Williams,
Allison Buck, and Becky Byers

G$M and Geek! are both smart shows. Both have advantages and drawbacks, both succeed on their terms (modest) and Off-Off-B'way budgets (also modest), and both are fun and smart evenings at the theater. More broadly, taken together, Geek! and G$M suggest that American culture has converted everyone into “fans” of one thing or another. Fandom is an aid to self-discovery and the foundation of a community, a path to belonging. But that fact raises a dicey proposition: much of what we're fans of is corporate-owned (in my case, it's Marvel comics and Yankees baseball). So we're required to tithe to the owners (not the comics artists, not the ballplayers, note) to understand ourselves and discover others. Of the two, Geek! is more optimistic, maybe because it's less socially engaged than G$M. It finds a subversive streak in the DIY ethos of cosplay and in geekdom generally. G$M is more of a romance―like late Shakespearean plays, it leaps ahead 17 years to resolve its family triad. But both ultimately claim that eccentric passion strengthens a person only when it's shared with another.

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