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LA Theater Review

American Way

There's a poignant undertone to Jeremy Gable's superhero comedy that's directly reflected in its title. We're all familiar with "the American way," as in the words (popularized by Superman) that end the phrase, "Truth, justice, and..." — but, Gable intimates, those words represent much else about our culture. While some of that may be flattering, most of it, as seen in a script first roughed out shortly after 9/11, is not. Oh, how the mighty have fallen in our new century, in which even "superheroes" have feet of clay.

The script is more surefooted dramatically than comedically. It most needs a stronger one-two punch — a thorough reworking to boost the potency of many of its concepts. Despite its obvious shortcomings, the script deserves a slicker approach than it gets in its Orange County premiere. Erik Furuheim's staging is on the right track, but rather than the slam-bang pace and energy we'd expect, the action moves fitfully — never a good sign for a comedy. Pacing is less of an issue once things veer toward drama, after a major urban disaster tests the mettle of our heroes, who, when all is said and done, are in essence as humanly fallible as the rest of us.

Jay Lewis uses hilariously florid diction to distinguish an aging superhero put out to pasture by the mega-corporation that employs most of the world's superheroes. A.K. Subramanian is Firebang, a pointedly testosterone-laced hero whose only power is the ability to hurl fireballs. Melanie Gable is aptly cynical as a luscious female hero tired of bad misogynistic jokes and ingrate victims. Ross Allen Cade Jr.'s hero-in-training is, laughably, like a poor man's Boy Wonder. Though surprisingly low-tech, Furuheim's set design suffices, while Heidi Newell's costumes lend credibility to the superhero quartet as well as to the much-needed comic book-like visual style.

Presented by and at the Maverick Theater, 110 E. Walnut, Fullerton. Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 3 p.m. (No Fri. and Sat. shows after Sep. 30.) Sep. 15-Oct. 22. (714) 526-7070.

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