You don’t have to have million-dollar sets, elaborate Hollywood costumes or even a huge venue to put on a great theater experience. All you need is a good concept and the talent to tell it. The rest is window dressing.
“The Batman Unauthorized Parody Show” fits the bill perfectly. It may be produced on a shoestring budget, but that’s part of the fun. The focus is comedy, and that is supplied in grand and glorious fashion.
The show plays at 8 p.m. Saturdays at Chicago’s Annoyance Theatre through at least Sept. 9. If people show up in droves, they’ll probably extend the run (hint, hint).
This funny and irreverent take on the Caped Crusader is a loving tribute to the Batman mythos, taking plenty of playful jabs at the character and his many incarnations.
It is written by Conner Stumm and Christian Pitsch, who portray Batman and Robin, respectively. Stumm, Pitsch and their talented castmates don’t parody a single version of Batman, but rather touch on all the variations of the character over the years – from Adam West’s campy comedy hero in tights to Christian Bale’s raspy-voiced, armor-wearing, gothic crime fighter.
The production is directed by Danny Leonard, with co-direction by Sam MacNerland; the latter also is technical director and stage manager.
The script is full of clever jokes and references to the Batman comics, movies and TV shows. The cast members are fun and fresh, and bring the characters to life with a combination of humor and heart.
Stumm has the Batman voice down pat. When combined with his physical stature and the character’s lack of common sense or fierce intellect, Stumm evokes thoughts of what it would be like to see Patrick Warburton play the iconic character.
As Robin, Pitsch does Burt Ward proud. His aw-shucks attitude shines with Casey Kasem enthusiasm as he keeps the audience in stitches. While all the actors are great in their roles, Pitsch is probably the most irreplaceable in terms of how perfect he is in his part.
The Annoyance Theatre parody features all of Batman’s most famous foes, except The Joker – which in itself is part of the overall joke – his absence an endless opportunity for punchlines.
But the other most well-known villains are on hand. Leon Wilson is a scream as The Riddler. Wilson’s Riddler is on fire with one comedy bit after another.
Understudy Hannah Magy was also in prime form as Poison Ivy on the night reviewed. Magy turns in one of the best performances in the show. She gives her character little idiosyncrasies such as a distinctive shimmy that make her Poison Ivy a perpetual delight. (The role is cast with Rogue Schmidt).
Chelsea Matkins goes full Michelle Pfeiffer overload in her sultry Catwoman. She even adds the perfect touch of Julie Newmar in a tribute to the woman many consider the greatest to wear the leotard.
Mario Turner does a nice job as a Harvey Dent/Two-Face who can’t flip a coin, and Hope Brannon is very funny as Mr. Freeze – especially in the use of the character’s Freeze Ray.
Matty Vergun takes full advantage of the opportunity to make his mark in the never-before-seen role of Kite Man – an appropriately ridiculous supervillain.
Brady Lampton, Charlie Cook and Mitch Winkler tickle the funny bone as wobbly kneed henchmen, and Joe Gustafson is excellent as Capone.
The show is full of physical comedy and sight gags, performed with gusto by the cast who have great chemistry between them. They play their roles to the hilt, and never miss a beat.
One of the key things making “The Batman Unauthorized Parody Show” so funny is its willingness to push comedy boundaries, including jokes at the characters’ expense. Adding to the humor, the characters are highly self-aware of their own absurdity.
Makeup and costumes are provided by Chai Golden – a recent Columbia College graduate who comes out of the gate running. The costume design is ingenious, combining elements from all the Batman variations over the year, as well as some original ideas. Kind of an absurdist superhero feng shui.
There are separate performance areas scattered around the main-stage theater space at The Annoyance, which, while simple, are effective. The use of the multiple locales is done well, although sight lines are obscured for characters seated inside the Batcave. Although this is a minor point, figuring out a way to have them visible in those scenes might make the show even stronger.
Overall, “The Batman Unauthorized Parody Show” is a hysterical comedic event sure to please fans of Batman and anything a little bit wacky. If you’re looking for a good laugh, I highly recommend checking it out.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: “The Batman Unauthorized Parody Show”
WHERE: The Annoyance Theatre, 851 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago
WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturdays through Sept. 9
INFORMATION: 773-697-9693, www.TheAnnoyance.com
A variation of this review is published by Northwest Herald/Shaw Media.
Photo credit: Camelia Patron
Peace. Love. Trust.
Rikki Lee Travolta
For more reviews visit: Theatre in Chicago – your source for What’s on Stage in the Chicago Area
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