REVIEW: The League of Awesome (Factory Theater)

This “League of Awesome” fails to live up to its name

 

DSC_0008

   
The Factory Theater presents
   
The League of Awesome
   
Written by Corri Feuerstein and Sara Sevigny
Directed by
Matt Engle
at
Prop Thtr, 3502 N. Elston  (map)
through August 21  |  tickets: $15-$20  |  more info

reviewed by Keith Ecker 

(Before I launch into my review of the Factory Theater’s The League of Awesome, I’d like to thank the theater staff for assisting me after I suffered heat exhaustion the first time I tried to see this play. Like a good critic, I cut out early so as to avoid passing out in the audience and stealing the show, so to speak.)


The idea of staging a comic book must have been alluring to the Factory Theater ensemble.

“We can have sound effects! And fight scenes! And super powers! And title cards!” you can imagine them saying as you watch The League of Awesome, the quirky theater company’s newest comedy about an all-female group that, after banishing their arch-nemesis, finds itself stuck with nothing to do.

DSC_0082 But although these little gimmicks are fun and inventive, they do not make a strong play. A strong play requires a sturdy backbone of a story, and unfortunately, this backbone is fractured. That’s not to say that the supplemental sound effects and superpowers—done in Kabuki fashion where assistants dawn black garb to remain invisible to the audience—don’t intermittently work to their desired effect, but without a captivating context to stick these things into, it’s just a lot of noise and flashy ribbons.

The story centers around the “League of Awesome”, a group of superhuman females that rid the city of crime and super villainy. The Beacon (Corri Feuerstein, who also co-wrote the play) has the power to redirect beams of energy. Cat Scratch (Erin Myers) uses sharp claws to scratch her enemies, while her teammate and thinly veiled lover Rumble (Melissa Tropp) uses her brute strength. Finally, there’s Sylvia (Sara Sevigny, who also co-wrote the play), who has the power to conjure anything at will by preceding it with the words “The way I see it…”

At the play’s opening, the team is combating The Sorrowmaker (Dan Granata), a villain who has the power to make people sad. (Coincidentally, the villain is also the ex-boyfriend of The Beacon.) The team defeats The Sorrowmaker after Sylvia banishes him to the pages of a lost installment of the Hardy Boys series.

One-year later, the league has eliminated all crime, thereby eliminating their usefulness. Now they are bored and drink all day. Then, Sylvia’s sister stops by—a plot point that contributes nothing to the story—and reveals her ability to make people break out into song at will. The characters spend more time drinking and being bored as we the audience are bored along with them, but unfortunately have expired our drinks.

Of course, The Sorrowmaker breaks out and seeks to exact his revenge. Meanwhile, Sylvie drunkenly conjures a new superhero named Ms. Great, whose hard-lined sense of justice and morality would make Jesus feel like a sinner.

There’s more to the story, but it quickly becomes a jumbled morass, with subplots dead-ending, floundering and being forgotten about. There’s just too much going on at once for us to become invested. Will Cat Scratch and Rumble get past their petty fighting and stake their purpose within this story? Will Sylvie’s sister come to terms with her powers and will her character become developed enough for us to care? And why is Sylvie’s proclivity to get drunk such a big part of the first half of the play but is kind of forgotten about in the second half?

DSC_0054

Despite all the flaws in the script, the acting is solid. Granata lays it on thick as the spurned villain. He’s got the maniacal scowl and laugh down to a T. Sevigny’s brashness as Sylvie pays off for its comedic effect. But the biggest show-stealer of all is Wm. Bullion as Gladys, a vagrant and the play’s narrator. His delivery and aloofness is laugh-out-loud funny.

With a much tighter script, The League of Awesome could be an awesome production. It has strong performances, unique effects and interesting fight choreography. But without a reason to care about all the whiz and bang on stage, it plays out like a confusing collage of comic book panels.

   
   
Rating: ★★
      
      

 

Cast List

Timothy C. Amos … Goon/Koken
Ray Brazaski … Goon/Koken
Wm. Bullion … Gladys
Catherine Dughi … Lucia Cornwall
Corri Feuerstein … Zoe aka The Beacon
Sara Gorsky … Ms. Great
Dan Granata … Drake Hurtcliffe aka The Sorrowmaker
Matt Kahler … Commissioner Byrd
Angelina Martinez … Penny
Paul Metreyeon … Marty Horticoop
Erin Myers … Kitty aka Cat Scratch
Jill Oliver … Goon/Koken
Casey Pilkenton … Goon/Koken
Jon Sevigny … Goon/Koken
Sara Sevigny … Sylvia
Melissa Tropp … Rumble

Crew List

Director & Fight Choreographer: Matt Engle
Assistant Director, Sound Designer & Videographer: Mike Tutaj
Costume Designer: Rachel Sypniewski
Set Designer: Joseph Riley
Technical Director: C.W. van Baale
Lighting Designer: Gary Echelmeyer
Props Designer: Kathy Mountz
Graphic Designer: Jason Moody
Stage Manager: Phil Claudnic
Assistant Stage Manager: Jermaine Edward Thomas
Production Manager: Ernie Deak
Videography Coordinator: Anthony Tournis
Assistant Fight Choreographer: Jennifer Pompa
Photographer: Paul Metreyeon

 

 

Technical and Creative Team bios:

 

Matt Engle (Director) is excited to be back and working with the lovely Factory Theater, where he’s been a proud ensemble member for the past 7 years. Some of his favorite roles here have included Vic in Dirty Diamonds, Brad in Janice Dutts Goes To Life Camp, Cy Curnin in Toast of the Town and Hero in Ren Faire! A Fistful of Ducats which he wrote and designed fights. Outside companies Matt has been fortunate to work with are WildClaw Theatre (Legion), Lifeline Theatre (Treasure Island), Chicago Dance Crash (Movement/Gentlemen), Griffin Theatre (Stinky Cheese Man), Theater Wit (Feydeau Si Deau), Strawdog Theatre (Marathon ’33) and Steep Theatre (Howie the Rookie). He has also designed fights for the Neo-Futurists (The Fool Returns To His Chair), Steep (Insignificance, 2000 Feet Away and Breathing Corpses), Pine Box (Hot ‘N’ Throbbing) and Strawdog (Marathon ’33). Matt can also be seen as a swashbuckling, ass kickin’, move bustin’ pirate clown at Navy Pier.

Phil Claudnic (Stage Manager) is proud to be back for his second Factory show having just worked on Hey! Dancin!  And now I have returned! That’s how awesome Factory is.  By day he tries to make money by any means because let’s face it, vanquishing evil with stage management skills doesn’t pay rent.  Lately, the US government has been giving him pay checks for counting the citizens of Chicago in the census.  You’ll rue the day I knock on your door!

Joseph Riley (Set Designer)  This is Joseph’s first time working with Factory, although he has participated in a number of their performances as an audience member. You can see other work by Joseph here at Prop Thtr in any Brain Surgeon Theater production (brainsurgeontheater.org),  in a smattering of Prop’s own productions, and occasionally as a brew-slinger behind the concessions bar. Joseph has also designed sets for Trap Door Theatre, The Artistic Home, Highland Park Players, and Sideshow Theatre. Feel free to look at josephleeriley.com for some pictures of what he’s done. Joseph would like to thank Ray for introducing him to the Factory clowns, Matt and Ernie for letting him design a 3-D comic book, and LIz (just ’cause).

Gary C. Echelmeyer (Lighting Design) Design credits include: 1985 with Factory Theatre; Miracle On 34th Street, Macabaret, and Once On This Island with Porchlight Music Theatre; Yoni Ki Baat with Rasaka Theatre Company; Seussical: The Musical and Hello, Dolly! with Elgin Community College; A Flea In Her Ear, Little Shop of Horrors, A Christmas Story, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change and You Can’t Take It With You with Texas Repertory Theatre; Chicago, Sweeney Todd, and Thoroughly Modern Millie with Clinton Area Showboat Theatre. Assistant design credits include: Taming of the Shrew with Chicago Shakespeare Theatre; Mimesophobia with Theatre Seven of Chicago; Elisir d’Amore with Tulsa Opera; and over twenty-five productions with Houston Grand Opera. Gary has worked with Aspen Opera Theatre Center, Opera Illinois, Northlight Theatre, Court Theatre, Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, Theatre Under The Stars (Houston), Illinois and Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festivals, and Chicago Dance Crash. Gary earned his B.S. in Theatre Design & Production at Illinois State University. Visit Gary’s online design portfolio: www.lightingbygce.com.

Rachel M. Sypniewski (Costume Designer)  loves working with the Factory and always appreciates their commitment to the lighter-side of life and always remembering that it is called a play. Ms. Sypniewski has designed well over 70 shows in the Chicago storefront theatre community, some of her favorites include,Frankenstein in Love and American Notes with Will Act For Food, Hey Dancin’! and RenFaire: A Fist Full of Ducats with the Factory,  The Grapes of Wrath, The Kentucky Cycle and The Crucible with Infamous Commonwealth, and Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum with St. Patrick’s High School. She is a company member of Infamous Commonwealth, an artistic associate with New Leaf Theatre, and a stage manager for Quade Productions. Much love to Robb, Lucky, Squirt and Twilight.

Kathy Mountz (Props Designer)  is excited to be working on her first show with the Factory Theatre. Recent Chicago credits include Into the Woods, Miracle on 34th Street and Macabaret at Porchlight Music Theatre, The Ghosts of Treasure Island at Adventure Stage Chicago, Yoni Ki Baat and culture/clash with Rasaka Theatre, and The Quiet Man Tales with Smock Alley Theatre Company. Kathy holds a BA in Stage Management from Western Michigan University.

Jennifer Pompa (Assistant Fight Choreographer) loves the AWSOME cast and crew of this show.  A Factory ensemble member and Chicago native, she was last seen acting in Factory Theater’s late night extravaganza, Hunky Dory.  She also did the fight choreography for that show and a few others for the Factory.  (Sometimes, in collusion with Director Extraordinaire, Matt Engle.)  Currently, she is the resident fight choreographer at Navy Pier, where she makes pirates fight.  Happy, happy, joy, joy.

Jason Moody (Graphic Designer) has been/is a graphic designer, songwriter/musician, photographer, advocate for new urbanism and more or less decent human being. Took acting in high school, wondered why in class they were
imitating trees and not diving straight into scenes from his favorite screwball comedies. He continues to wonder.

   
   

One Response

  1. […] A team of female super heroes go against an old nemesis in The League of Awesome. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: