Farcical comedy , as many have observed, is like quiche. It takes a lot of ingredients, measured perfectly, mixed skillfully, and baked just to the point of perfection.
Super Identity Crisis, now playing at Zombie Joe’s Underground, has many of the ingredients and just needs a little longer in the oven. The premise is a good one: a melange of superheroes (based, to varying degrees on copyrighted characters we know), mixed up in a melee of conflicting intentions, most of them under the power of a dark master.
The players bring energy and clarity to this mashup. As the Crawler (a spidey clairvoyant), Patrick Beckstead flies and mugs about the stage, yet delivers a range of extreme emotions from self-doubt to delirious joy. As The Fist (his reluctant, metal-clawed partner), Joshua Dickinson wavers a bit in focus, but finds good moments.
Isabel Espy creates an explosively libidinous lasher as Black Box; the irrepressible David Wyn Harris overplays just enough as the sexually dimorphic Dark Dwarf/ Nurse; and Meeko Daphron keeps us wondering about Wonder Boy. Finally, Joseph Jones, as the eye-patched Gen. Rage, holds a menacing frame around it all.
The costumes (by Harris and Adam Poisal) are inventive and often brilliant. The text itself needs a little more work, to keep us clear about what these attention-grabbing characters are seeking, and why they find themselves in each other’s way. And the direction — strongest when scenes flash and freeze like comic-book panels — almost achieves liftoff. (A quiche must be just firm enough so it doesn’t fall.)
Super Identity Crisis isn’t a finished work; they’re still fiddling with the recipe. But that’s one of the strengths of Zombie Joe’s — it offers a shot at the stage for new ideas and newcomers, a place to play and experiment. SIC delivers a playful hour with many laughs, abundant energy, and a promise of more — and better — to come.
Super Identity Crisis, written and directed by Magnus MacDomhnaill.
Presented by Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre Group, at the ZJU Theatre, 4850 N. Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood 91601.
Fridays and Saturdays at 8:30,
through April 23.
Tickets: <www.ZombieJoes.com> or (818) 202-4120.