Category Archives: plays and players

Superman Vs. Ultra, On Stage

Saturday night I attended my second and their third installment of “Super Heroes Who Are Super” at Plays and Players. The project features dramatic readings of real comic books, sometimes acted out as well on stage, and was created by Dan Student.

Tonight’s event directed by Ray Roberts comes from 1940’s Action Comics #21. It’s actually a classic Golden Age Superman story which became pivotal decades later in Roy Thomas’ All-Star Squadron as it features an early appearance of the evil Ultra-Humanite and scientist Terry Curtis who himself would go on to become the reluctant villain Cyclotron. Now, that’s waaay more than you need to know to enjoy the show, but you know me, yes, I’m a comics geek. All you really need to know is – Superman vs. Ultra for the life of an atomic scientist, case closed.

Whereas the last show, “Duel of the Super Heroes,” was done chiefly as a reading with seating arrangements more of a bleachers, this show was more spread out with tables and chairs more café style leaving lots of room for the actors to move about for more “superheroic action.” Also unlike the last show, there was more acting out rather than reading in this one as one might expect from a Superman story and actor Brian Cowden stands out in the role with deadpan superhero glory.

Props also go to narrator William Combs for his smirks and raised eyebrows in all the appropriate places and to the beautiful evil of Amanda Kerns’ Ultra, who earns all the right hisses and wolf whistles. This was a fun production and I look forward to the next, on February 13th. Be there!

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Super Heroes Who Are Super

A week ago I saw simply the coolest show a comic geek could hope to see live. Presented by Plays & Players this was just amazing fun. Here’s how they describe it:

Super heroes brought to life before your very eyes! Word-for-word staged readings of classic comic books featuring some of Philadelphia’s finest actors. Will Spider-Man save the day? Will the Hulk smash? Will this description get you to come to our performances? Find out! With a relaxed atmosphere that includes drinks being served from the neighboring Quig’s Pub, audiences get an opportunity to interact with the artists and embrace their inner (or outer) comic book geek.

The show we saw featured a live reading in costume of Green Lantern #13, “Duel of the Super-Heroes,” guest-starring the Flash. Patrons were mostly dressed in comic book related t-shirts and were talking in the lobby and the bar about the previous night’s “Smallville” and the Wonder Twins – a real geek audience, but still quirky cool. There were also an equal amount of folks talking about “William Shakespeare’s Land of the Dead,” another Plays & Players show from earlier in the year. Word of mouth must have been mighty though as there was only single seats and standing room only.

The words were played straight for the most part with hand gestures and facial expressions doing the rest via puns, camp and innuendo. Much like the 1960s “Batman” TV series this was a wonderful experience on more than one level. The narrator was a melodramatic marvel and the telepathic aliens almost made me wet myself. I loved this, and will be back. The next show is December 12th.

The previous month’s shows featured Spider-Man, the Punisher and Wonder Woman, and who knows who will appear next, but we’ll find out as the show is scheduled through to June. For more details, click here.

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William Shakespeare’s Land of the Dead

To celebrate the end of Zombiedelphia Month we went to see the Plays & Players production of William Shakespeare’s Land of the Dead.

Detailing the zombie invasion of 1599, where notables of the time take refuge in the newly built Globe Theater while London is under undead siege, this is actually a well-researched, smart and clever little play. Seriously, zombies aside, somebody really knows their Shakespeare. The controversy of who really wrote what and how much ‘borrowing’ the bard did from experience and people he knew and work he saw and read is center stage here, with just a bit of living dead horror thrown in just for kicks.

I really loved this. The midnight show featured free drinks for those who dressed as zombies, and to be sure, the audience would have made George Romero proud. Like a Rocky Horror experience, the production was interactive with zombies in the audience and blood (Karo, peanut butter and chocolate syrup) being spilled and spurted from the stage. Luckily for the squeamish, plastic sheets were provided for folks in the first couple rows – the splatter zone.

Cast standouts include Ryan Walter as the boisterously entertaining Will Kemp, Molly Casey as Kate Braithwaite, and special props to Jacqueline Halloway who choreographed the fight and dance scenes. yes, there was a bit of zombie-fighting but the prize of the show was the finale to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” After all, what better way to end any undead production than “Thriller.” Dazzling!