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NYC Fringe Festival: The Custodian – Review

Every summer New York City
hosts an off-off-Broadway theater festival that produces 200 plays in two
weeks.  The Fringe Festival targets
young and hip audiences, so it shouldn’t be surprising to find some comic book
and video game themed shows like The Custodian: A Superhero Comedy written and Directed by Will Lacker.

 

It’s founded on the premise
that if there were superheroes in New York, then someone would have to clean up
after they fight each other.  It’s
a funny idea, but one that wasn’t explored well in this play.  Mostly the show explores the
relationships of a group of ordinary roommates who happen to live in a city
where superheroes exists.

 

In The Custodian, Max (Played by Eryck Tait) is unemployed and shares
his apartment with a video game addict Remy (Nick Hepsoe), and eventually the
two are joined by Fing (Adam Delia) Remy’s childhood friend who spent the last
few years living in the jungles of Uganda.  Shortly into the show, Max’s girlfriend Wanda (Laurel
Hepsoe) gets him a job as a janitor, where he finds himself constantly cleaning
up after superheroes crash into the building where he works.  Eventually, after the constant battles
of the superheroes threaten his home, and girlfriend, Max decides that he’ll
have to put a stop to the heroes.

 

Unfortunately, it takes a
very long time for any of this to play out.  The show runs two hours including intermission, and plods
along spending most of its time as a mismatched roommate comedy.  There isn’t much of a plot until the
end of the first Act when Max and pals decide to do something about all of the
superheroes making a mess of their town, and then it takes the entire second
act before Max makes his inevitable transformation into a supervillain.
 


The superhero angle isn’t
worked in very well.  The entire
show is set inside Max’s apartment, and no superheroes show up onstage until
the end.  Even then the only
superhero the audience ever gets to see is one lowly sidekick.  There’s lots of talk about exciting
things that happened between scenes, or are going on outside the window, but
the audience doesn’t get to experience any of this.

 

If the playwright is a
genuine comic book fan, it doesn’t actually show up in the play.  There aren’t any insider jokes for comics
fans to get, but rather the heroes referenced in the dialog are based on
characters from blockbuster film franchises (Manbat and Sparrow, The Bulk, The
Green Canteen, and Corporal America). 
No knowledge of comic books, or even an appreciation of them is needed
to understand this super-powered world. 
The theme of arrogant superheroes making life hard for the little guys
is a little reminiscent of “Kingdom Come” or “Squadron Supreme”  but I suspect that this is
unintentional.

 

While it doesn’t do much to
deconstruct the Cape & Tights genre, it’s serviceable as a comedy about
three wacky roommates.  Max, Fing,
Remy and Wanda have occasional funny moments, especially Fing. Kevin Alan also
stands out in multiple roles as a DJ, a Professor, a Hispanic janitor, and a
right wing talk show host. 

 

The Custodian has three more
performances as of this writing. 
More about it can be seen on the theater company’s website.  Check back with Player Affinity over
the next two weeks as we review all comic book and video game shows in the
Fringe Festival.

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