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Comic Book Theater Festival – Gutterspace Review

You know that white space between the panels in a comic book?  It’s called the “Gutter”.  Have you ever wondered what superheroes do there while they’re waiting for the next panel to begin?  Well, a new play performing in the Comic Book Theater Festival in Brooklyn New York asks (And answers) this question.  Gutterspace is a super-powered existentialist comedy; sort of the Justice League equivalent of Waiting for Godot, or perhaps Batman meets Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead.

Despite the high-falutin’ premise and all of the heavy philosophy, it’s all played for laughs, in Gutterspace.  We start out with a blank stage that exudes a pair of performers clad only in black.  Suddenly a set of superhero costumes appear, and these blank vessels are transformed into the heroic White Raven  (Zach Clark) and his sidekick Condor (Blaze Mancillas).  They’re aware that they’re only playing the roles of these caped heroes, and that an unknown force compels them to stand in silly poses inside a comic book panel, but they don’t know why any of this is happening.  This mystery fills Condor with anxiety, while instilling the White Raven with a sense of adventure. 

They’re soon joined onstage by the villains Stella Stilleto (Paige Patterson) and Barron Black (Hardy Pinnell).  Stella refuses to believe that she’s merely an actress playing a Femme Fatale; she’s positive that she really IS Stella.  Barron Black on the other hand knows that his villain role is just a part he’s playing.  Overseeing the production of these comic panels is a silent Stage Manager (Nika Ezell Pappas), who might be more than she appears…

When Condor suspects that his character will die in the issue they’re shooting, he’s filled with terror as to what will become of him after his character dies.  Will he cease to exist as well?  Will he end up playing another role in another book?  This launches the characters into a debate about the nature of their existence, and the purpose of life, much like the absurdist works of Becket, Stoppard, and Pirandello before it.  Eventually, the joke begins to wear  a little thin, but the show remains enjoyable to the end thanks to a clever plot twist.

The set is deliberately minimal, nothing more than a white frame upstage where the performers pose for their panels.  The props are cleverly done, with 2-dimensional cardboard items used to create a comic book look.  The costumes on the other hand, are quite good for an off-off-Broadway show.  The hero outfits are elaborate, and Stella Stilleto struts around in a slinky dress. 

The script by Keith Boynton is funny, and the White Raven comic book that the characters are creating within the show is full of sharp superhero parody.  Direction by Benjamin Kamine switches effectively between the superhero lampoon and philosophical debate.  The cast suits their roles well; they’re a young group, but were certainly entertaining to watch.

Gutterspace closed earlier this week, but comic fans should keep an eye out for future productions of it.  The Brick Theater’s Comic Book Theater Festival runs throughout the month.  Check back with us for reviews of the other projects in the festival, and see the schedule for upcoming performances on The Brick’s website.


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