From Zeros To Heroes

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Imagine watching The Matrix on acid, and you have a pretty good idea of what to expect at Impact Theatre's The Wake-Up Crew, a new play at La Val's Subterranean Theater. A short piece based on the familiar premise that humans are actually dreaming their reality and can be awakened to realize new levels of awareness, there's more punch to this thing than the entire Batman film series put together.

Written by Zay Amsbury and directed by Josh Costello, the play focuses on four life-long friends and the not-so-ordinary adventures and trouble they get themselves into. James (Steven Klems) returns to the apartment he shares with his friends after leaving for a year to experience life without the comforts of the people who he considers family. Having learned that the real world basically sucks, he returns to make amends. But things have changed a bit since he last saw his old pals.

For one thing, they have been "woken up" and now possess a variety of superpowers. Jake (Christopher Morrison) is a magician who can, among other things, transform people into frogs and worms as well as banishing them to the underworld. Monk (Noah James Butler) has acquired samurai fighting skills, as well as a nasty attitude and a pretty gnarly pair of combat pants. When James first returns home he finds his friends in a panic because the fourth musketeer Lorrimer (Elijah Berlow) has disappeared and is sucking away their powers.

The first sign for James that something is amiss comes when a beautiful girl emerges suddenly from the bathroom. He remarks with wonder, "I just peed in there." The girl turns out to be Amanda (Cara Gilson) who was responsible for waking them all up in the first place. Because she went against the orders of her mentor, any damage Lorrimer causes will be blamed on her. It is at this point that a romantic relationship is revealed to have existed between Amanda and Monk, who is also dubbed Captain Abandonment Issues. James watches in wonder as the three talk about how they came to be awoken. At first he assumes they are on some kind of permanent acid trip but soon starts to warm to the possibilities of gaining superpowers himself.

None of the three trust that James is who he says he is, despite the ability to repeat numerous memories of the four friends from childhood. The only way to be sure is to do a brain scan, and to do one would cause him to also be "woken up" - a move that puts him and the others in danger. Nevertheless, they perform the brain scan and he is woken up with the power of healing. Although excited by the prospect of this new adventure, James is a little disappointed with the "wussy" power he has been given.

The rest of the play centers around trying to locate Lorrimer and disarming his plan to return to a simpler time when the four friends played superhero games at the park. For some reason, Lorrimer wants to turn back the clock and be kids forever without the annoying little responsibilities that come along with maturity. Along the way there are some pretty energetic kung fu attempts that send one person's head through a wall and had reportedly given one actor a bloody nose during a previous performance. Considering the stage is about the size of a walk-in closet, the moves they make are pretty remarkable and had the entire audience literally shrieking in surprise.

There are so many fun things aboutThe Wake-Up Crew that it is hard to know where to begin. Despite being just over an hour long I was completely exhausted at the end from watching them perform and thinking about the energy they were putting forth. The acting is great and it is obvious that all the actors are having a blast. There may be a lack of form and style, but this only goes with the play's theme and location. Going to a theater in the basement of a pizza joint may not seem like an elegant night out, but the experience is definitely worth it. Also, the subtle and not so subtle jabs at the comic book industry show intense research into the complex world of the superhero.

Some of the emphasis on the whole "friends forever" thing was a bit much, but there's nothing wrong with co-dependent men who don't want to grow up. More than anything this play insures a fun time and a complete escape from the realities of a world where there are impending finals rather than an impending superhero takeover of the Earth.


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