“There’s something I have to tell you… You know how people have different sides to their personality… Sometimes, a, uh… a person will have to actually lead a different life… (pause, sighs)…That was me at 18 doing my impression of Michael Keaton doing his impression of Bruce Wayne in the movie Batman, and I’ve been doing that, in some form or another, for approximately 27 years.”
To author/actor Jason O’Connell, Batman was the ne plus ultra of champions, the unheralded philosopher of our times, his unwitting guru, a father replacement. Unlike super heroes, the character has no powers. Batman, he proffers, could be anybody, albeit with millions of dollars. First an outsider because of his obsession, O’Connell later found attractive women ?! who appreciated the caped crusader, naming each of his girlfriends for a character in successive films.
O’Connell is a good storyteller and an adroit writer. He looks us right in the eyes generating connection and sympathy. With this first one man show, the artist deftly intertwines tales about his career, accounts of relationships, and life lessons with specific views on the Batman franchise. To varying degrees of success, he conjures Michael Keaton (really well), George Clooney, Christian Bale, Jack Nicholson (mostly facial), Danny DeVito (physically), Arnold Schwarzenegger (ably)…as life coaches. (Only one unintelligible character is unidentifiable and might easily be expunged.) Casting, script attitudes, and directors are wryly critiqued.
It helps to have some familiarity with the films and actors, but this is not an analysis. With candor, sweetly self denigrating humor, and cultural perception, O’Connell is telling us the story of one boy’s growth and coping mechanisms in contemporary times and pop context.
Integration of Shakespeare (obsession with another man in tights) through theatrical training draws clever parallels. An utterly charming anecdote features O’Connell’s observing a boy’s ballet class with such appreciation of unexpected beauty, he begins to recite What a piece of work is man…. Talk of a beloved grandfather is also affecting.
My single caveat is O’Connell’s schizophrenic, multi-impersonation denouement, one character loudly arguing with the other in an unnecessary cacophony of people occupying his head. It’s nigh impossible to get that many distinct portrayals right with rapidity, an onslaught, and unnecessary to the show. The quiet ending will work fine omitting this.
Director Tony Speciale has done a seamless job. Gestures work. Pacing is pitch perfect.
Alas, no one’s been given credit for sound which adds immeasurably.
A unique and entertaining evening.
Dork: a person who behaves awkwardly around other people and usually has unstylish clothes, hair…Merriam Webster Dictionary
Photos by Ben Strothmann
Abingdon Theatre Company presents
The Dork Knight
Written and Performed by Jerry O’Connell
Directed by Tony Speciale
Through January 29, 2017
Dorothy Strelsin Theatre
312 West 36th Street
The latest powerhouse in comic-book adaptations, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, promises an explosive showdown between two of the biggest superheroes on the planet. Picking up where Man of Steel left off—with the city of Metropolis in tatters following Superman’s battle with Zod—Batman v. Superman opens in an uncertain era with many questioning Superman’s intentions and power. With Batman on a mission to stop Superman before he causes further harm, the two superheroes soon find themselves battling not just each other, but Lex Luthor’s evil creation, Doomsday, as well. Starring Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill, the movie is chock full of explosions, and action, but does it live up to the hype?
It’s safe to say that the one saving grace of Batman v. Superman is its epic action. Featuring a wealth of impressive CGI over the course of two and a half hours, the film is bolstered largely by its highly-choreographed action sequences and explosions. These scenes are aplenty, and keep the film from collapsing into insipid tedium. On the other hand, the non-action scenes of the movie are surprisingly dull. Many of the performances only add to the muted, listless tone of the film. The acting is not bad, just dreary.
While there are some standout performances—most notably, Gal Gadot’s impressive Wonder Woman—Ben Affleck’s Caped Crusader is disappointingly one-dimensional. Though Affleck succeeds at being stoic and steely, he lacks the charm of previous Bruce Waynes and leaves viewers yearning for Christian Bale or Michael Keaton incarnations. As evil Lex Luthor, Jesse Eisenberg falls flat in his over-the-top attempt to recall a giggling villain on the brink of insanity, à la Heath Ledger’s flawless Joker character in the Christopher Nolan series. There are plenty of other famous faces in the movie—including Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Holly Hunter as Senator Finch, and Diane Lane as Superman’s mom—but the real treat of the supporting cast is Jeremy Irons. Though he is in the movie far too briefly, Irons adds some much needed lightness and humor to the film as Alfred, Batman’s long-suffering butler.
If you’re a fan of the original D.C. comics that inspired the movie, or of big-budget superhero movies in general, then Batman v. Superman will surely knock your socks off. If, however, you don’t have a Batman costume hanging in your closet, aren’t already clued in on storyline, or even know who Lex Luthor is, you might be bored. Those viewers unfamiliar with the storyline will feel stranded by the scarce and flimsy explanations of critical plot points. Unlike other films that offer mass appeal to a large range of viewers, like the recent Deadpool or even 2015’s Antman, Batman v. Superman feels like it is specifically tailored for comic-loving audiences.
Ultimately, the movie offers an interesting concept but feels like it’s drowning in its own seriousness. Taking a cue from other superhero blockbusters and injecting some warmth and humor to the film, as well as adopting a more linear plotline, would have benefitted Batman v. Superman greatly. If you’re not a teenage boy, or a die-hard comic fan, skip this film and re-watch Deadpool instead.
Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice opens nationwide on Friday, March 25.